Governor Gary Locke’s Remarks
Workers Comp $200 million refund (Yakima)
Good afternoon, and thank you for joining me today. I just want to take a moment to thank Rocky Marquis and all of the great employees here at Marq Packaging Systems for their hospitality in allowing us to share this good news with you today.
It's rare when a governor gets to hand out money. But that's the pleasure I have today.
It's truly an honor to be able to return $200 million to businesses in Washington for the second year in a row. We were in Tukwila this morning, and we just came from Vancouver, where we presented checks to employers in those regions. We came to Yakima to personally deliver these tax refund checks.
You may recall we issued a similar tax refund -- the first one ever -- in January, 1999.
We've been able to give back $400 million to employers in the last two years, and our workers' compensation system remains strong.
Here in Washington, we have a workers' compensation system, managed by the Department of Labor and Industries at costs that are lower-than-average for businesses -- in the bottom 25 percent nationally, that pays higher-than-average benefits for its workers -- in the top 25 percent.
That is the most desirable combination. We'll work hard to preserve it and ensure it continues to run efficiently.
Across the state, 130,000 employers will share this refund. Each will receive 30 percent of what they were assessed to pay into the accident fund from July 1, 1998 to June 30, 1999.
This refund from our workers' compensation system is possible because of three things: excellent financial gains on our investments, improved safety within the workplace resulting in less money paid out in claims, and efficiencies within the Department of Labor and Industries.
Although the stock market has fluctuated a great deal in recent months, the State Investment Board has done an outstanding job of managing our money. Only 15 percent of State Fund assets are invested in the stock market. More than 80 percent is invested in high-quality bonds.
These refunds are great economic news for our state and for businesses in Washington.
Employers can use this money to expand their businesses, buy new equipment, create new jobs, or expand safety programs that help to keep claims costs down.
We want Washington to be a great place to do business and be affordable. And the climate for doing business in Washington is becoming more attractive than ever.
In the workers' compensation system alone, we've been able to reduce employers' costs through rate cuts and refunds by $469 million since 1998.
In fact, since the beginning of my administration, businesses have saved nearly $1.4 billion in taxes. These cuts come from reductions in unemployment insurance taxes, workers' compensation premiums and business and occupation taxes.
Overall, this means we are working hard to make it easier for businesses to succeed in Washington. And that means more opportunities for economic development and prosperity, higher wages and more jobs.
Now, back to our reason for being here today - these checks. Labor and Industries Director Gary Moore has a handful of checks that I'm proud to be able to deliver today. Those checks I am unable to personally deliver today are being mailed today.
This money is employers' money - your money, and I am happy to be able to return it.
- Department of Labor and Industries