Workers' comp overhaul prevents Wash. rate hike

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OLYMPIA, Wash. (AP) -- An overhaul of the workers' compensation system in Washington will help prevent a rate increase for businesses this year.

Gov. Chris Gregoire said Thursday that state officials decided against a 2.5 percent rate increase, which was already much lower than a double-digit increase that business leaders expected at the beginning of this year. Business groups and Gregoire pushed for widespread changes in the system despite the objections of labor officials who believe the overhaul will lead workers to accept less money than they are entitled to receive.

The plan approved by the Legislature earlier this year allows injured workers to take settlements instead of a lifetime of payments.

Gregoire also announced that most businesses will pay a lower unemployment tax rate in 2012.