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Another Voice: Workers' comp reform is a win for state's employers

By Heather C. Briccetti

When the Business Council released its 2017 Back to Business agenda in January, we made passing meaningful workers’ compensation reform our No. 1 priority. Now, with the enactment of the 2017-18 New York State budget, we are happy to say we got it done.

While it will take several months to fully implement all of the reforms included in the package, we are confident our state’s employers will see annual savings of hundreds of millions of dollars. This is money that can then be used to hire more workers, invest in new technologies and increase wages.

These reforms happened thanks to the combined efforts of key state lawmakers and the more than 200 advocacy organizations, chambers of commerce and businesses that joined our coalition and amplified the voices of our state’s employer community.

We especially want to thank Senate Majority Leader John Flanagan, along with Sens. John Francisco, R-Syracuse, George Amedore, R-Rotterdam, and Fred Akshar, R-Colesville, for making this a priority issue throughout the budget negotiations. Credit also is due to Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo and staff and Assemblyman John T. McDonald, D-Cohoes, and Assemblywoman Carrie Woerner, D-Saratoga Springs, for ensuring comp reform did not fall out of the final budget agreement.

Major components of the comp reform package include:

• Capping classification of maximum medical improvement at 2.5 years by creation of a credit to employers for temporary payments beyond the threshold.

• The guaranteed development of new impairment guidelines, to be adopted by Jan. 1, 2018, which will adhere to modern medical evidence and modern medical outcomes.
• The issuance of a pharmaceutical formulary by the Workers’ Compensation Board by Dec. 31.

Our members were also excited to see that after a long delay, ridesharing services like Uber and Lyft will be coming to the entire state. We firmly believe these services will complement existing public transit systems throughout upstate and help spur economic development.

State leaders also deserve credit for making a $2.5 billion commitment to improving New York State’s aging water infrastructure. Not only will these funds allow for needed upgrades, they will also create jobs and encourage business growth.

Despite these successes, this year’s budget is far from perfect. We remain disappointed that the millionaire’s tax was extended and hope lawmakers take another look at the private colleges that were left behind by the changes made to the Tuition Assistance Program.

Our state still has a long way to go to prove that we are in fact open for business. We look forward to working with the Legislature and the governor over the rest of the session in enhancing our state’s energy infrastructure and reforming laws and regulations that are stifling growth and inhibiting economic freedom.

Heather C. Briccetti, Esq., is president and CEO of the Business Council of New York State.

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