Lawmakers struggle for workers’ comp deal

May 19, 2011 

Leading state lawmakers are struggling to find a compromise that would alter Washington’s workers’ compensation system and help seal a budget agreement.

Negotiators emerged from a 45-minute, closed-door meeting Wednesday afternoon with little progress to report. It was the first gathering for a small group of key players tasked with finding common ground. The meeting comes just a week before Washington’s 30-day special session is set to end.

The Senate has approved a plan that includes an option of lump-sum settlements with workers who receive benefits for a prolonged period. It’s something Gov. Chris Gregoire and many House members also support.

But House leadership has said it is not interested in allowing settlements because it could lead workers to accept fewer benefits than they would otherwise be entitled to receive.

Sen. Janea Holmquist-Newbry, the Moses Lake Republican representative in the negotiations, said she wasn’t any more optimistic after the meeting that a deal can be reached. Nobody was willing to share specifics, but Holmquist-Newbry said all sides are going to consider the ideas on the table before meeting again today.

“I still have a glimmer of hope that we can reach some sort of resolution and take a step forward this session,” she said. “It’s not going to be what I want necessarily, though.”

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