Time is running out to oppose proposed rate increases in Washington state

| 11/18/2008

With less than two weeks to go before proposed rate increases in workers’ compensation rates for 2009 are expected to be adopted in Washington state, some small-business truckers, who oppose the increases, are scrambling around to meet with their lawmakers before time runs out.

The state’s Labor and Industries Department is proposing a 3 percent increase across the board for all businesses in the state, but the rates will be higher depending on a specific industry’s risk factor. Trucking industry rates would go up 8 percent.

For OOIDA members Sherrie and Bob Bond of Chehalis, WA, who have owned a log-hauling company for more than 40 years, this rate increase may prove fatal for them and other small log-hauling companies like theirs already teetering on the brink of closure.

“When it comes to this industry, I always say there are those who hunt to feed everyone, those who gather to share the bounty, and the hyenas who come in afterwards, clean the bones and praise themselves for being such great hunters,” she told Land Line Magazine recently.

However, Sherrie Bond said she is committed to fighting the proposed increases on behalf of all businesses in the state because the state’s Labor Department is sitting on a budget surplus of at least $1.6 billion. Bond said while it may be too late to help her struggling business she plans to meet with as many lawmakers as will listen to her in the next few weeks.

The Labor Department is also proposing a 14 percent rate increase for loggers in the state. Bond said she has already spoken with some loggers there who say they will have to let people go and scale back their businesses if the workers’ compensation increases are implemented.

Norm Miller, director of the Log Truckers Conference for the Washington Trucking Association, said their organization has also submitted comments opposing the rate increases.

He said the number of log trucks in the state is dwindling as well as the entire timber industry there as a whole. Miller said this is partly due because of the slowing economy and businesses still trying to recover from record-high fuel prices earlier this year.

“It’s a perfect storm,” Miller told Land Line Magazine on Monday, Nov. 17. “The global economy and the local economy and their revenues are falling and the base costs are rising.”

Washington state businesses are urged to call Gov. Chris Gregoire’s office at 360-902-4111 to express opposition to the Labor and Industries Department proposed rate increase. Click here to send a letter to her office.

– By Clarissa Kell-Holland, staff writer