Workers' comp overhaul keeps business costs down

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OLYMPIA, Wash. (AP) -- A major overhaul of Washington's workers' compensation system is already helping keep costs down for businesses.

The Department of Labor & Industries said Tuesday it is proposing an average rate increase of 2.5 percent for 2012. The agency says without this year's changes in the Legislature, the agency would have been pushing for a double-digit increase.

Officials had been considering an increase of up to 8 percent as recently as this week as a way to restore depleted reserves. L&I Director Judy Schurke says the low number takes into account the painfully slow economic growth hindering businesses.

Businesses worked with lawmakers this year to change the system so that the state could offer settlements to workers that would lower payout costs over the long term.