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Vote ‘Yes’ for Initiative 1082

I just returned from a business conference in Washington DC. In all my travels, this is the first time I have spent more than a few hours here, and although I didn’t get the chance for serious exploring, I was able to take in some of the sites. Regardless of your impressions of what’s happening in the country, or your politics, it’s still inspiring to visit DC and to think about all that has occurred in the shaping of our country.

The discussions around politics today often center on the frustrations about the polarization, and resulting paralysis, that seems to have gripped the legislative process. Too often, key discussions tend to divide down party lines, with each side seemingly more interested in promoting or protecting political ideology than enabling legislation that will move the country forward.

A critical issue currently is increasing jobs, especially among small businesses. Small businesses are the heart of the US economy. Small business employs the majority of Americans and pays the majority of taxes. This year’s November 2 election in Washington State has a number of critical initiatives being put before the voters that could have dramatic impact on jobs and the small businesses that create them. One in particular is important to me and to Parker Smith & Feek. Washington State’s Initiative 1082 would end the Department of Labor & Industries monopoly on workers compensation. I support the initiative and urge you to seriously consider the issues.

Washington is one of only four states in the country that does not allow private insurance companies to compete with a state-sponsored fund in providing workers compensation coverage. To put this in perspective, PS&F provides our Washington clients with property, auto, liability, healthcare and many other kinds of insurance coverage – but not workers compensation. By contrast, our Anchorage office provides a full range of services, including workers comp, and is able to serve all our client’s needs there.

The ‘no’ side in the 1082 debate would have you believe that if the initiative passes, insurance companies will take advantage of injured workers in Washington and not pay claims. There isn’t any evidence to remotely suggest this is true. As I mentioned, 46 states currently operate with an open competition system and insurance companies pay millions of claims each year. The best systems exist where there is a strong state fund option as well as private insurance and where competition has made everyone better. These programs are characterized by excellent safety education and strong claims management, with the result being fewer serious injuries, injured workers being returned to gainful employment more quickly, and lower workers compensation rates for everyone.

Unfortunately, the debate over Initiative 1082 is predictably falling down party lines. This should not be a D v R issue, but should be about what creates a healthy, vibrant environment for employees and employers – especially small businesses. A vote for 1082 will create much needed competition and will inevitably improve the operations of L&I’s State Fund. Government isn’t the problem, per se, and certainly government isn’t evil. But government is best at oversight and regulation, ensuring that the rights of all are protected. The proposed legislation will maintain government’s appropriate role as a watchdog and will allow them to continue to compete in the open market.

Please, consider a ‘YES’ for Initiative 1082, and let the competitive marketplace drive innovation and cost reduction, making Washington a better environment for business and jobs.

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