Workers’ compensation reform

On May 23, the House passed reform of the workers' compensation program. The legislation now goes to the Senate for consideration before the May 25 deadline for the special session adjournment.

Our House Republican lead on the negotiations had this to say: Condotta says workers’ compensation reform bill is a step in the right direction.

This page explains the problem, the solution and details of the legislation to change this program that is costing job creators more and more each year.

What is the workers' compensation program?IMG_0173

The state's workers' compensation program, also called industrial insurance, provides medical and limited wage replacement coverage to workers who experience job-related injuries and illnesses. Employers and employees pay for this insurance and any rate increases the Department of Labor and Industries determines. The program covers more than 168,000 employers and 2.5 million workers. Three funds make up the workers' compensation program:

  1. Accident Fund:  This pays partial wage replacement (time-loss), permanent disability benefits, pensions, and vocational retraining costs. 100 percent employer funded.
  2. Medical Aid Fund: This pays for health care and private vocational services for injured workers.  50 percent employer funded and 50 percent employee funded, if employer chooses to deduct this from workers' paychecks.
  3. Supplemental Pension Fund: This pays for annual cost of living increases. 50 percent employer funded and 50 percent employee funded.

 

The problem

While workers' compensation taxes are decreasing nationwide, Washington employers and workers rates increased $117 million in 2010. The 2010-11-03L_1474average rate increase is about 12 percent this year, amounting to a $196 million rate increase.

Unfortunately, it's not enough, according to the Department of Labor and Industries. A 33 percent rate increase would be required for the Accident Fund to break even.

The state auditor's office, in its audit of the workers' compensation program through June 2010, stated:

"The Accident Account is insolvent and the proposed rate increase will not be sufficient to restore the contingency reserve and maintain the solvency of the account over the next five years."

What does 'insolvent' mean? It means the account would no longer be able to pay what it owes to injured workers and become bankrupt.

An independent actuarial firm assessed that there is a:

  • 94.5 percent chance the Accident Account will remain insolvent over the next two years, 95.9 percent over the next three years and 96.4 percent over the next five years.
  • 21.7 percent chance the Medical Aid Account will become insolvent in two years, 52.9 percent within three years and 94.1 percent within five years.

The governor herself has stated that 8 percent of workers drive 85 percent of the costs for the entire program.

Rep. Cary Condotta, the House Republican lead on business and labor issues, said we should "Look to Oregon to see how workers’ comp can work."

 

The solution

House Bill 2123 was supported by our caucus May 23. It would reform the workers' compensation program to:

  • allow negotiated, voluntary structured settlements for workers over age 55, reduced to 50 in 2016; Handshake
  • offset any permanent partial disability received from the final settlement;
  • incentivize return to work sooner by providing subsidies for employers to allow for light duty or transitional work options for employees;
  • significantly reduce rate increases in 2012 and beyond for employers;
  • provide payments for continued medical treatments and reopening of claims if medical condition gets worse;
  • freeze cost of living adjustments for one year; and
  • create a rainy day fund to prevent future drastic rate increases.

This legislation is projected to save $1.12 billion in four years. It now goes to the Senate for consideration. Both chambers must pass the same version before it can move to the governor for her signature.

Myths and truths about workers' compensation reform (House Bill 2123)

  • MYTH: Settlements are unfair to workers.

TRUTH: The structured settlement is a voluntary option, not a requirement for injured workers. We are not interested in forcing someone to do something that doesn't meet their needs, we want to give workers the choice. In fact, the proposal includes important protections for workers to ensure a settlement is in the best interest of the worker. The proposal requires a waiting period and requires the Board of Industrial Insurance Appeals to approve the settlement if the worker does not have a lawyer.
 

  • MYTH: If an injured worker has additional medical expenses, they would be at financial risk.

TRUTH: Workers will continue to receive payments for medical treatments. In addition, the proposal allows for the reopening of claims if a medical condition gets worse. Workers will continue to receive benefits until a final settlement is reached, preventing a situation where someone feels they have to settle because they are no longer getting benefits.

 

This reform proposal is critical to getting Washington back to work, as well as save the state money and provide a more efficient government for the people of the state. Read our proposals to create jobs here.

 

What others are saying about workers' compensation reform:

Newspapers (5)Let injured workers decide their own best interests (The News Tribune)

Spokane’s unemployed and underemployed deserve better (Spokesman-Review)

State must fix workers’ comp system before it collapses (Don Brunell/The Columbian)

Workers' compensation - Let this bill live (Wenatchee World) 

Adding choice best for workers, companies (Spokesman Review)

Kristiansen’s regulatory reform bill gets hearing, but is placed on hold

More than 14,600 pages of state agency rules and regulations exist in the Washington Administrative Code that businesses are expected to know, understand and comply with. Rep. Dan Kristiansen says although most employers make a good faith effort to comply with regulations, state agencies have become more aggressive in enforcement, imposing hefty fines against businesses that thought they were operating within the law.

Kristiansen, R-Snohomish, has introduced House Bill 1436 to prevent state agencies from retroactively imposing fines and/or sanctions against a party whose actions were initially approved by the agency, but later found to be in violation.

During a hearing today in the House State Government and Tribal Affairs Committee, Kristiansen testified about an employer in his legislative district who was heavily fined for incomplete paperwork that had been approved earlier by the agency.

“This employer was working in good faith with the agency for nearly seven years, filling out paperwork that had been approved by that agency, and was told he was compliant with the law. However, a new person at the agency took a look at the paperwork and decided it had not been filled out properly. So this employer was fined $10,000 a year for a total of $40,000 for four years of paperwork violations, even though none of the rules had been broken, but the paperwork was filled out improperly. This is an example of how we should not treat employers in our state,” said Kristiansen.

Kristiansen noted the same employer later chose to expand his operations in another state, creating up to 300 jobs there, primarily because of the regulatory red tape he fought against in Washington.

“Our regulatory environment makes it difficult to compete with other states and keep jobs. With budgets getting much tighter, there’s a huge financial incentive for Washington state agencies to get very aggressive with businesses. They can go back retroactively four years, as the law allows, and impose these hefty fines, even on something as small as a paperwork glitch. The employer must then write a check to the agency, which it can use to help to make up for its own budget cuts. In the meantime, this practice chases employers out of the state of Washington and contributes to job losses. That’s not how we should be solving our state’s budget problems,” noted Kristiansen. 

Under the bill, agencies that initially approved actions by a person or employer could not come back later to impose fines on that party for those actions. The measure also allows a party to remedy the rule violations and authorizes agencies to provide technical assistance to help correct the violation.

“This measure would give assistance before enforcement. That’s the direction we should be going,” said Kristiansen. “State agencies don’t like this legislation because it removes the ability to gain revenue from employers. Employers say this is an example of some of the help they need. However, they are reluctant to testify in public because they don’t want a target painted on their backs.”

Although a hearing was granted on the bill, Kristiansen said he was told today the committee most likely would not allow the measure to move forward.

“Most likely, this bill is on hold because of state agency opposition. It’s most disappointing that employers are being forced to take a back seat to bureaucrats, especially when we have some of the highest unemployment in our state in 25 years. If we want to turn our economy around and get Washington working again, we need government to be part of the solution – not part of the problem. This legislation could have been another important component toward creating a better business climate in Washington,” said Kristiansen. “Employers need our help and I will continue working to reduce government burdens holding them back.”

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CONTACT: John Sattgast, Senior Information Officer: (360) 786-7257

Overstreet sponsors bill to provide regulatory relief to citizens, employers and local governments

42nd District lawmaker introduces Regulatory Fairness Act of 2011

Rep. Jason Overstreet is sponsoring a bill that would provide regulatory relief and certainty to citizens, employers and local governments across the state. The Regulatory Fairness Act of 2011 addresses the authority of state agencies to impose rules that could negatively affect the economy.

House Bill 1671 would require state agencies, before adoption of a rule, to determine whether compliance would have a specified economic impact. If so, the state agency would have to provide notification and may not enforce the rule until it is enacted into law by the Legislature.

“The Regulatory Fairness Act adds a layer of protection to our economy and puts state agencies on notice. First, it would require them to understand how their rules would impact the economy. Secondly, it would require legislative authority to enact a rule that would financially affect citizens, employers and local governments,” said Overstreet, R-Blaine. “With our economy continuing to struggle, the first rule for state government should be ‘do no harm.’ My legislation is aimed at this outcome.”

The governor has acknowledged, through Executive Order 10-06 entitled “Suspending non-critical rule development and adoption,” that “in a time of severe budget constraints, small businesses and governments find it more difficult to monitor and respond to proposed changes in rules and policies” and “a stable and predictable regulatory and policy environment will conserve resources for small businesses and local governments and promote economic recovery.”

House Bill 1671 has bipartisan support, including two Democratic co-sponsors.

“This shouldn’t be a partisan issue. In fact, it takes what the governor has already done in terms of rule-making authority and simply strengthens it,” said Overstreet. “This would especially help our employers in these tough times.”

House Bill 1671 has been referred to the House State Government and Tribal Affairs Committee, where it is scheduled to receive a public hearing at 8 a.m. on Wednesday, Feb 9. Overstreet is the assistant ranking Republican on the committee.

The 2011 legislative session began Jan. 10 and is scheduled to run through April 24.
 

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Contact: John Handy, Deputy Communications Director, (360) 786-5758

Job creation legislation proposed by Hargrove

Doubling tax credit would help employers retain, hire employees

Washington has an unemployment rate stalled at 9.2 percent, with a “real” unemployment rate of around 18 percent if those who are under-employed or have given up looking for work are counted. Rep. Mark Hargrove, R-Covington, introduced House Bill 1672 to give employers more tax certainty and confidence to keep their doors open or expand their operations.

“Our state’s unemployment rate is holding steady at an unacceptably high level. We have to do something that sends a signal to employers that we understand higher payroll as well as other taxes and fees are hurting their ability to make decisions about the future of their businesses,” Hargrove said. “My bill is one small, but important step in the right direction.”

House Bill 1672 would double the Business and Occupation Tax (B&O) credit for small businesses. The B&O tax is a unique tax to Washington state.

“The state Business and Occupation Tax applies to gross earnings, so the government gets paid whether a small business makes a profit or takes a loss on a sale,” said Patrick Connor, Washington state director for the National Federation of Independent Business (NFIB). “House Bill 1672 would provide welcome relief for small businesses still struggling in this difficult economy and give a break to entrepreneurs starting a new business. NFIB appreciates Representative Hargrove introducing the bill, and we hope it will encourage a broader debate about the burden this tax places on all businesses in our state.”

“It’s an extremely punitive tax because it hurts start-up businesses the most,” Hargrove explained. “My goal with this bill is to let our newly-opened and young companies know we are invested in their success. Ultimately, the success of private-sector businesses will help us dig out of the nearly $5 billion dollar deficit we are facing.”

Hargrove’s proposal has been referred to the House Ways and Means Committee where it is awaiting a public hearing.

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For more information, contact Bobbi Cussins, Public Information Officer: (360) 786-7252

Tax break and affordable energy instrumental in creating good-paying jobs in Wenatchee, says Condotta

12th District lawmaker is pleased to see Alcoa bringing 80 full-time, high-wage jobs to the region

Rep. Cary Condotta, R-East Wenatchee, heard news today that Alcoa plans to restart an idled smelter, Wenatchee Works, that will create 80 family-wage jobs. Last year, the Legislature passed some favorable tax incentives for companies to locate in the region. Coupled with the abundance of affordable and renewable energy, the company decided to locate their high-paying jobs in the region.

According to Alcoa’s press release, restarting one potline will meet the requirements of the plant’s new 17-year contract with the Chelan County Public Utility District. Opening in November, the plant will provide enough energy for increased production of 42,000 metric tons.

“This is great news for our area, which is struggling with unemployment. These jobs are just the start of what we can do as a Legislature to begin making Washington more attractive to employers,” Condotta said. “I’ve heard a lot about how we should end tax incentives to close the state’s spending gap, but Alcoa bringing these jobs to the state is proof positive that every bit of encouragement for job creators can pay off in the end.

“This job creation comes on the heels of another successful tax program that created a sales and use tax exemption for server equipment and computer data centers in Quincy,” Condotta said. “Together, these incentives are good starts to getting our economy and people working again.”

Condotta added that Alcoa is an excellent community partner, not just an employer.

“In 2010, Wenatchee Works Alcoans contributed more than 500 hours of volunteer service in the Wenatchee Valley along with thousands of dollars in grants to local groups,” Condotta said. “We need the jobs, but we also appreciate a company that is invested in our local communities and their success.”

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For more information, contact Bobbi Cussins, Public Information Officer: (360) 786-7252

A taxing session for businesses, jobs

By Rep. Dan Kristiansen – Special to the chambers of commerce

My House Republican colleagues and I entered the 60-day regular session Jan. 11 with one thing in mind -- job creation in the private sector.

We drafted a jobs plan called “Made in Washington” that sought changes to help employers create jobs. These included: reforming the state’s workers’ compensation insurance program, lowering the cost of unemployment insurance, providing regulatory reforms that would lower the cost of doing business in Washington, reforming our state’s health care system to ensure accessible, affordable access to medical services, and increasing affordable, renewable energy supplies. (Read our plan online at: http://houserepublicans.wa.gov/our-solutions/made-in-washington.)

We asserted that putting people back to work is not only imperative to helping families, it is the responsible way for the Legislature to respond to the state’s $2.8 billion budget shortfall. When people are working, they are less dependent on government services. At the same time, they have more disposable income to spend, which generates revenue that helps carry out the core functions of government. 

Unfortunately, the Democrat majority had a different plan in mind -- raising taxes. Rather than accepting our Made in Washington solutions, they sought to overturn Initiative 960 through passage of Senate Bill 6130. The initiative, approved by voters in 2007, required the Legislature to have a two-thirds majority approval to increase taxes. With I-960 out of the way, the Legislature needs only a simple majority to raise taxes.

House Republicans offered solutions that would have closed the budget gap WITHOUT TAX INCREASES. Instead, House and Senate Democrats reached an impasse on which taxes to raise, resulting in an extended, costly special session. At the time of this writing, it is unknown which taxes will be increased. I am concerned any tax increases will devastate employers and families, and result in further job losses.

Aside from the budget and taxes, several bills of interest to business passed the Legislature:

Business-friendly bills

  • House Bill 2603 requires state agencies to give small businesses a two-day grace period to comply with regulations before penalties can be assessed.
  • Senate Bill 5041 requires the Department of Veterans Affairs to maintain a list of veteran-owned businesses on its public Web site and encourage state agencies to award at least 3 percent of procurement contracts to such businesses.
  • Senate Bill 6267 provides for expeditious processing of water rights applications.
  • Senate Bill 6349 requires the Department of Labor and Industries to establish a farm internship pilot project with small farmers in Skagit and San Juan counties to teach college students about agriculture.

Disappointments

  • No reforms to lessen workers’ compensation and unemployment insurance costs.
  • Businesses will likely be hit hard with tax increases.
  • Use of cell phone without a headset while driving is made a primary offense with a $124 fine (Senate Bill 6345).

Following the special session, I will provide an update on the final budget and tax package. Suffice to say I will not support increased taxes.

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EDITOR'S NOTE: State Rep. Dan Kristiansen, R-Snohomish, represents the 39th Legislative District, and also serves as chairman of the Washington House Republican Caucus. He can be contacted at (360) 786-7967 or e-mail him and sign up for his e-newsletter at: www.houserepublicans.wa.gov/Kristiansen. His office address is: P.O. Box 40600, Olympia, WA 98504-0600.

CONTACT: John Sattgast, Senior Information Officer, (360) 786-7257

Parker helps save businesses providing furniture for state colleges

Constituent contacted Parker saying action by agency would ‘force us to lay off most of our staff’

 

In late January, Spokane resident Kurt Wood contacted Rep. Kevin Parker regarding a letter from the Office of Financial Management (OFM). It said an exemption allowing higher education institutions to purchase furniture from private companies would be rescinded. 

"If the exemption for higher education were removed, it would force all of the colleges to buy their goods and services solely from the corrections industry. It would severely cripple our business by 65 percent and force us to lay off most of our staff," Wood said.

“Mr. Wood and his company were given just seven days notice before they would lose most of their business, endangering 12 jobs in Spokane,” Parker said. “I immediately got on the phone with him and asked him what I could do.”

Parker introduced House Bill 3166 in order to reverse the decision and continue to allow higher education institutions to purchase furniture from private companies like Wood’s on Tuesday, Feb. 2.

Just yesterday, OFM notified state representatives the exemption would go back into place until June 30, 2011. Correctional industries will still receive two percent of business from higher education institutions.

Dozens of companies currently sell to colleges and universities throughout the state.

“Today was a victory for both employers and the state, because more than one hundred jobs were saved in Spokane and across the state,” Parker said.

Parker said he intends to push for a permanent exemption for these public-private contracts.

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Contact: Sarah Lamb, public information officer, (360) 786-7720

Rep. Doug Ericksen: Reforming our workers’ compensation system would help employers, create jobs

When we buy auto insurance, there are a lot of options. This healthy competition provides us with better products to choose from and lower costs.

Employers in Washington are not as fortunate when it comes to workers’ compensation insurance. They only have one option – a state-run system operated by the Department of Labor and Industries (L&I). We need to end this government monopoly and allow the private sector to offer this product to employers.
Back in my football days we used to say, “The eye in the sky doesn’t lie.” The eye in the sky was game film. Regardless of how good we thought we were, the camera always revealed the truth.

A TVW camera revealed the truth when, at a recent Greater Spokane Incorporated legislative forum, House Speaker Frank Chopp praised Washington’s failing workers’ compensation system. As one of the panelists, I felt terrible for the stunned business leaders in attendance. Speaker Chopp made it clear he is going to fiercely defend the status quo.

The problem with this business-as-usual approach is it is destroying our economy. Our workers’ compensation system is just one example of how the state is failing to address the needs of employers.

Unfortunately, the news is getting worse for employers that are already contemplating layoffs and closings. At a time when a majority of states are cutting workers’ compensation premiums, L&I is increasing premiums by an average of 7.6 percent in 2010. This is paid for by employers and their employees. Unemployment insurance premiums, another system with problems, will also increase for 170,000 employers in our state in 2010.

L&I has shown no interest in meaningful reform. Its approach has been to raise premiums, avoid comprehensive reviews of policies and expenses, and ignore tough questions. For example, why is it the average Washington worker who receives workers’ compensation benefits misses 257 days of work, which is nearly three times the national average? In comparison, Oregon’s average is 70 days.

Employers are not to blame. In fact, they have made workplaces safer. Despite significant increases in population, the number of workers’ compensation claims has dropped by 55 percent since 1990. Meanwhile, premiums have increased by more than 40 percent over the last five years. This suggests an inefficient system.

It is time for real reform in our workers’ compensation system.

Step one is to freeze premiums immediately. This would give employers some financial certainty in 2010.

Step two is to pass a bill in the 2010 legislative session that would eliminate the state-run monopoly on workers’ compensation insurance, and allow competition and choice for employers. I have introduced legislation that would accomplish this goal.

Other states that have enacted real reform in their workers’ compensation systems, such as privatization, have experienced lower costs. In West Virginia, a state that privatized its system in 2006, premiums have dropped by 30.3 percent.

This is about more than just helping employers and creating jobs. It is about prioritizing state government. Every minute and dollar the state spends on running an insurance company is time and resources taken away from the priorities of education, public safety and protection of our most vulnerable citizens. It is also about the best use of your tax dollars.

We cannot sit idle as employers – from mom and pop stores to the Boeing Company – close shop or leave our state. Our state is full of entrepreneurs and hard-working business leaders who need government barriers knocked down. They are not looking for handouts or bailouts – they are looking for fairness. Our state can start by providing a fair and affordable workers’ compensation system.

State Representative Doug Ericksen represents the 42nd Legislative District. He can be contacted at ericksen.doug@leg.wa.gov or (360) 786-7980

For a Washington State Auditor Office report (December 31, 2009) on the state’s workers’ compensation insurance system, visit here: http://www.sao.wa.gov/auditreports/auditreportfiles/ar1002832.pdf

For workers’ compensation insurance information from the Washington State Department of Labor and Industries, visit here:

http://www.lni.wa.gov/ClaimsIns/Claims/

To see what other states are doing with their workers’ compensation insurance systems, visit here:
http://www.biawblog.com/post/Whats-Happening-in-other-States.aspx

Rep. Jaime Herrera’s response to the governor’s State of the State address

18th District lawmaker discusses the economy, budget and state facilities

 

“The best way for us to help create jobs is to keep government from strangling employers with new fees and red tape. The governor said that government must be smarter and more efficient. While I agree, her words do not match her actions of the last five years.

“We have double-digit unemployment in my district. The last thing my constituents want to hear is that state government, in an effort to raise more revenue, is driving more employers out of state or out of business. We need to set priorities, determine what's truly necessary and stick to our budget -- without raising taxes and fees.

“Just as so many families and employers in my district have had to sacrifice to make ends meet, so should state government. We can focus on education, public safety and programs and services for our state’s most vulnerable citizens -- and still balance the budget without raising taxes.

“The state should also reconsider its recent increases in workers’ compensation and unemployment insurance rates. I have been contacted by employers in our region that are struggling to keep their doors open and now state agencies, under the authority of the governor, have significantly increased the cost of doing business in Washington. This hurts the employers we are fortunate to already have, and sends the wrong message to those who may be looking to relocate here.

“I’m encouraged about the governor’s willingness to streamline the permitting process and adjust the Rural County Tax Credit Program. But we must put magazine ratings aside and address all of the needs of our employers -- not just a few. This includes regulatory relief, health care reform and the assurance of low-cost energy.

“Olympia should be more focused on preserving jobs than preserving the status quo. The goal should be strengthening our economy, not raising taxes.”   


On the closing of state facilities

“The governor talked about the courage to close correctional institutions, and we know she has certain targets. But courage must include wisdom. Closing facilities such as the Larch Correctional Facility and the Naselle Youth Camp would be penny-wise and pound-foolish.”

Please click here to read the governor’s State of the State address. 

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Contact: John Handy, Deputy Communications Director, (360) 786-5758

OP-ED: Make job creation the focus of the 2010 legislative session

Opinion editorial by Rep. Jan Angel

 

During an icy morning as I was driving my car, I noticed a woman on the street corner holding a sign. "I need to feed my children," it read. She was dressed in jeans, and a windbreaker jacket was all that separated the shivering woman from the bitter cold. She looked as if she could have been a grocery checkout clerk, an office secretary, or may have held any type of middle-class job. Instead, she was a mom who had fallen on hard times and was doing what she must so her children could eat.

I stopped and gave her all the cash I could find in my wallet, and I will never forget the look of gratitude in her eyes. It was truly heartbreaking, but also the reality of one of the worst recessions in our state's history.

It also emphasizes why job creation should be the centerpiece of the 2010 legislative session, which begins Jan. 11 in Olympia.

More than 47,000 people in Pierce and Kitsap counties were unemployed in November. That's more than the combined populations of Bremerton and Gig Harbor. Overall, the state has the highest jobless rate in more than two decades with at least 324,000 people looking for work.

Yet even as working families struggle to get by with reduced hours and smaller paychecks, and employers try to keep their doors open and make payroll in this fragile economy, unfortunately, it seems to be business as usual at the state Capitol.

In the past three months, state agencies have announced they are increasing workers' compensation premiums and unemployment insurance taxes, and implementing expensive building code requirements that will further put a crimp on new home sales. A memo discovered from the governor's staff director recommends state climate change regulations so egregious to businesses that they will beg for a less economically damaging federal cap-and-trade program. On top of this, the governor wants to raise taxes. 

Ask anyone who has been out of work for months: Can they afford to pay higher taxes? Would it be fair to ask the homeless person to pay more taxes to provide raises for some government workers? How much more punishment can employers endure from state government before they can no longer afford to do business in Washington, or will they seek greener pastures in other states like Boeing is doing?

The impact of the recession can be seen as close as our grocery stores. When I've been shopping, I no longer see grocery baskets filled to the brim. People are buying only the essentials. They have to make choices between paying the power bill or buying Hamburger Helper. I see how people in our local communities are struggling like this and it makes me even more determined to change the direction our state is headed.

In the coming days as the legislative session gets under way, lawmakers will be grappling with closing a $2.6 billion budget deficit. If we are to fix our state's budget problems, we need solutions that will get people working again.

I am working with my fellow House Republicans on a plan that would help employers preserve and create jobs. Our solutions are based on regulatory relief, access to affordable health care, clean and low-cost energy, and responsible state spending. Our plan would reduce the cost of doing business in Washington, including reforming the state's workers' compensation system, and making changes in the state's unemployment insurance program to keep tax rates down while providing benefits for those who truly need them.

Our plan also seeks to reinstitute a "priorities of government" approach to budgeting using existing revenues -- one that funds education first, ensures public safety and protects our most vulnerable citizens. Budgeting is about setting the right priorities and not spending more than you have. Families recognize this and in the face of a difficult economy, they have set priorities in their own budgets and reduced or eliminated spending on non-essentials. So should state government.

Finally, we cannot tax ourselves out of this recession. Tax increases would only further damage our business climate, hurt families and prolong the state's economic troubles.

We need to stop digging ourselves deeper with more regulations and higher taxes and fees that destroy jobs and, instead, empower our state with solutions that will help Washington to climb out of this recession.

Beyond the marbled walls of the Capitol building, real people are struggling in every corner of our state. I have seen their faces and I am committed more than ever to help them. They want a hand-up, not a hand out. Let's put the focus of the coming legislative session where it will do the most good, by implementing policies that will create jobs in the private sector and get people working again.

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EDITOR'S NOTE: Rep. Jan Angel, R-Port Orchard, is ranking Republican on the House Local Government and Housing Committee and serving her first term representing the 26th District. Angel may be contacted at her district office in Port Orchard: (360) 876-5986, or during session in Olympia at (360) 786-7964. She may also be e-mailed from her Web site at: www.houserepublicans.wa.gov/Angel.

For more information, contact: John Sattgast, Senior Information Officer: (360) 786-7257