Contact: Doug Finch (315) 781-2030
Regular readers of my weekly columns are aware that my focus as a Legislative Leader, and Assemblyman, has been providing real leadership and finding smart solutions for more jobs, a stronger economy and a more affordable New York. As Leader, I have put my 20 years of proven private sector experience starting and running successful businesses to work in crafting non-partisan public policies that will help fix New York's problems, not fix the blame.
One of the areas where I have been promoting real reform has been New York's costly, inefficient and outdated system of Workers' Compensation, also known as "Workers' Comp." A new report by the Rochester Business Alliance (RBA) illustrates why I have been working so hard to call attention to this issue - and why Albany still has much to do in terms of delivering the less costly, more efficient system of Workers' Comp taxpayers and businesses were promised years ago.
ROCHESTER BUSINESS ALLIANCE: WORKERS' COMP REFORM UNFINISHED
The RBA serves as the chamber of commerce for the nine-county Rochester region, including Monroe, Genesee, Livingston, Ontario, Orleans, Seneca, Wayne, Wyoming and Yates counties. The RBA is a non-partisan, independent organization committed to a stronger economy for our greater Rochester region and entire state. The RBA report - "Unfinished Business: Five Years of Workers' Compensation Reform, Still a Work in Progress" - expertly outlines the challenges facing New York's Workers' Comp system and offers real solutions to fix the problems, reduce costs for job creators and build a stronger business climate and more jobs for our state.
"WORKERS' COMP 101"
Before cutting into the "meat" of the RBA report and its specific recommendations, the following is a quick primer on New York's Workers' Comp system. Since 1913, New York's Workers' Compensation Law has provided a safety net to employees hurt on the job and requires nearly all employers to provide compensation to employees for injury, illness or death that arises directly from employment, even if the injury or illness is not related to any fault by the employer. The entire cost of Workers' Comp insurance is paid by employers, who are prohibited from charging the cost to employees. Employers have the option of purchasing a Workers' Compensation insurance policy through a private insurance carrier, State Insurance Fund or self-insure.
New York's Workers' Comp system is one of the most expensive in America, contributing to our state having some of nation's highest costs of doing business. Those high costs drive away businesses and good-paying jobs, while sending a message that New York is not open for business.
ALBANY'S 2007 WORKERS' COMP REFORMS REMAIN UNFINISHED
In response to growing Workers' Comp costs and its negative impact on job creators, Albany tried to address the problems in 2007, enacting legislation to provide increased benefits for workers, while providing short and long-term savings to employers by providing a cap on permanent partial disability benefits. The reforms provided significant savings for the 2007 and 2008 years. However, since then, state Workers' Comp costs and assessments have risen dramatically because benefit increases included in the reform were implemented immediately, while the cost-savings measures still have not yet been fully enacted because of Albany's foot dragging.
RBA REPORT: NEW YORK HAS NATION'S FIFTH-HIGHEST WORKERS' COMP COSTS
The RBA report - available at their Web site - shows the current challenges caused by New York's ultra expensive Workers' Comp system that puts New York job creators at a competitive disadvantage and ultimately costs jobs. Here are some of RBA report findings:
- New York job creators now pay the nation's fifth-highest Workers' Comp premiums;
- Since 2006, average Workers' Comp medical claim costs are up 11 percent, and compensation intended to replace lost wages have risen 20 percent;
- For one private-sector employer with multiple locations in the state, Workers' Comp security deposits have risen 72 percent over the last five years - an increase of more than $60 million; for another large nonprofit employer in the Rochester region, they have increased 30 percent; and Job creators pay the State an extra Workers' Comp "Tax" ranging from 18 to 20 percent over the last three years, more than double the tax charged by any other state.
SOLUTIONS TO FIX NEW YORK'S BROKEN SYSTEM OF WORKERS' COMP
Thankfully, the RBA report does more than simply shine a light on our Workers' Comp problems - it offers specific solutions that Albany can implement to realize the promises of the initial 2007 reforms including:
- Requiring the State Workers' Compensation Board to resume detailed annual reports with metrics on agency performance, program implementation and overall costs;
- Appointing a Workers' Comp "Czar" with reform experience from other states to assess New York's system and accelerate progress;
- Bringing scheduled loss payments in line with medical advancements that have improved recovery times and health outcomes;
- Reducing New York's highest in the nation Workers' Comp Taxes;
- Fixing the handling of permanent partial disability cases; and
- Rejecting any legislative rollbacks of Workers' Comp reforms.
The solutions outlined in the RBA report mirror many of the specific legislative remedies I have sponsored to finish the job of reforming our costly Workers' Comp system. Fulfilling the promise of Workers' Comp reform will be good for workers, good for job creators and good for New York's economy. Let's make good on the promise of reform and finish the job!
As always, constituents wishing to discuss this topic or any other state-related matter should contact my district office at (315) 781-2030 or e-mail me at email@example.com.