WXXI Local Stories
Tue February 27, 2007
Spitzer, Legislature Reach Accord on Worker's Comp Reform
By Karen DeWitt
Albany, New York –
Governor Spitzer and legislative leaders announced agreement on workers compensation reform that they say will bring down premiums and increase benefits to injured workers.
Governor Eliot Spitzer and legislative leaders broke years of gridlock when they announced agreement on workers compensation reform. The plan would increase the average weekly benefit for injured workers from $40 a week to $100. It will also cut costs in the bureaucratic system and bring down New York's high premium rates by 10% to 15%.
"This is a remarkable win-win situation," said Spitzer.
Under the plan, Spitzer's Insurance Department will have tighter control over insurance companies, and will pass savings from reforms on to employers. The agreement also ends long-term disability payments for some workers, and would instead pay their medical bills and help them find new jobs. The plan includes anti fraud measures, including higher penalties for workers who cheat, and the power to stop work at a job site where the employer has not provided worker's comp insurance to employees.
Spitzer and legislative leaders say they were able to break the more than a decade long deadlock over the issue, by obtaining the actual data about costs of the program, and then checking their partisanship at the negotiating door.
Spitzer had begun work on the issue last summer. He laid out details in a campaign speech to the state's Business Council. The day after he was elected, he instructed the head of the business lobby, Ken Adams, and the President of the AFL-CIO, Denis Hughes, to start working on an agreement.
Adams, who has held his post for only a few months, says he's pleased with the process and the results.
"This is functional Albany," he said.
All the participants at the announcement were in high spirits, and some could not resist teasing Governor Spitzer over his hard-nosed reputation as Governor Steamroller. Senate Majority Leader Joe Bruno, a Republican, said the agreement proved that compromise is the best policy.
"Checks and balances work, and when people negotiate in good faith and understand it can't be all one way, " said Bruno to increasing laughter.
Finally , Spitzer quipped, "This is my room, don't forget that".
Governor Spitzer says he hopes the agreement on workers compensation can set an example for successful negotiations on other topics, like the new budget, which is due in just over a month.