Spin Control

WA Lege Day 74: New workers comp bill in works. House budget coming next week?

OLYMPIA -- An attempt to breathe life back into efforts to revise the state's workers compensation system will be released late today or Friday by the governor's office -- a new bill that tries to find savings to help make the system solvent, Gov. Chris Gregoire said.

What it won't have, she said, is a provision for "compromise and release" a change much desired by business and much loathed by organized labor. A bill with that change, which passed the Senate weeks ago, is bottled up in the House Labor and Workforce Development Committee, and isn't likely to see the light of day.

Republican House leadership believes they could pass that bill if they could get it to the floor. Democrats say they couldn't, and Gregoire said she's not taking any chances.

Her new bill will have a provision for voluntary settlements for workers over age 55, along with a freeze of cost of living adjustments and offsets of workers comp payments with Social Security, and a Rainy Day fund system, she said. But no compromise and release.

"I'm not willing to risk...it fails and we have nothing and go home," Gregoire said.

The Legislature has one month left in its regular session, and still has not produced a comprehensive budget in either house to address the 2011-13 biennium and a projected $5 billion shortfall between money expected to come in and money that would have to be spent for existing programs.

Gregoire said she's been told a spending plan from the House, which takes the lead this year on budget writing, should be released early next week. She's been told it will not propose an increase in gambling to increase state revenue. If any legislator has such an idea, "they need to tell me...because there are real legal issues associated with the tribes."

The state and many of the tribes have gaming compacts that define what each can offer in the way of gambling.




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