Governor Schwarzenegger is optimistic about reaching a deal with lawmakers soon on reforming the state’s workers’ comp system, according to Reuters. The governor and legislators have been in talks for days, but details of the negotiations have not been divulged.
Vince Sollitto, a spokesman for the governor, said that Schwarzengger believes a deal is within reach and is optimistic that it will happen by April 2, when the Legislature adjourns for spring recess. A spokesman for Assembly Speaker Fabian Nunez also indicated that a deal was imminent.
If a deal on workers’ comp is not reached, Schwarzenegger will move forward with his endorsement of a ballot initiative. Approximately 600,000 registered voters are required to sign petitions by April 16 in order to qualify the initiative for this year’s November election.
Costco Wholesale Corp. has agreed to support the group sponsoring the initiative by gathering signatures. The retailer is a longtime critic of the workers’ comp system and can theoretically gather as many as 900,000 signatures for The Committee for Workers’ Compensation Reform and Accountability. Costco’s employees will circulate 90,000 petitions in the company’s 100 California stores.
The governor originally wanted to shave $11 billion in costs off of the $29 billion system. After some revised industry figures were released, however, he said he was willing to compromise on a deal that cut between 25 and 30 percent of costs. The state has the highest workers’ comp premiums in the nation, with system costs at more than twice the national average.
The governor hopes that a deal with lawmakers will be reached soon so that the savings from the reforms will be passed on quickly to employers. If there is a workers’ comp initiative on the November ballot, savings will not be realized until July 2005.
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