A public records request by Senator Janéa Holmquist (R-Moses Lake) and Representative Cary Condotta (R-Wenatchee) has revealed officials with the state Department of Labor & Industries (L&I) lied to lawmakers about the workers’ compensation rates employers will pay for 2011.
Senator Holmquist and Representative Condotta asked L&I Director Judy Schurke at a Joint House and Senate Commerce & Labor Committee Work Session what the “indicated rate” is for 2011 after L&I announced they would not release the indicated and proposed workers’ compensation tax increases until after the November 2 election. The indicated rate is the rate necessary to cause annual revenues to equal the annual expenses. The proposed rate is the rate L&I will actually charge employers. The two usually differ because L&I uses reserve funds to “buy down” the often astronomical indicated rate to one more acceptable to businesses.
The business community supporting Initiative 1082 cried foul, arguing L&I is playing politics on the public’s dime by breaking with the agency’s long-standing tradition of providing employers with the workers’ comp rates they will pay the upcoming year on the eve of an election in which voters will have the opportunity to end L&I’s monopoly on workers’ comp. Business owners rely on the information to plan their company’s budget.
Senator Holmquist and Representative Condotta agreed with frustrated businesses and demanded L&I tell them the rates businesses would pay in 2011. Representative Condotta said, “you [L&I] have the numbers. You’ve done the work. You know what the rates are…I’d like those numbers.” Testifying before the legislative Committee, L&I Director Schurke responded, “we don’t have those numbers.”
Yet documents obtained via the public records request prove otherwise. The documents L&I handed over include a chart with the 2011 indicated rate clearly redacted. Also, I attended a meeting of the state's Mayors early this year where the Governor's Chief of Staff Jay Manning told us L&I would need a minimum of a 30 percent increase to remain solvent in 2011.
“Obviously Labor & Industries has known for months what the indicated rate is for 2011,” said Patrick Connor, NFIB/Washington State Director. “These new documents prove it,” he added. “L&I has been caught red-handed lying to the Legislature, and the only explanation is they are desperate to hide the indicated rate because it shows what we’ve said all along — a massive tax hike is coming.”
The lack of transparency and corrupt actions of L&I officials — lying during legislative testimony — is precisely why the business community overwhelmingly supports I-1082. The agency is clearly run amok and considers itself accountable to no one; not elected legislators, and certainly not taxpayers.