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Gov. Vetoes Bill to Restore Some Workers' Comp Benefits

September 20, 2006|Marc Lifsher | Times Staff Writer

SACRAMENTO — Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, vowing not to weaken the achievements of the 2004 overhaul of California's workers' compensation insurance system, vetoed a bill Tuesday that would have hiked benefits for permanently disabled workers.

The bill sought to restore the level of permanent disability benefits that were cut in half as part of the 2004 overhaul.

For example, Robert Nares, a 50-year-old construction worker who lost a leg in a work site accident, spoke recently in support of the bill, saying that he was awarded compensation of $50,702. He said he would have received $112,585 under the pre-2004 formula.

The increase in payments would have been phased in over three years beginning in January.

"I will continue to defend the workers' compensation reforms to ensure the strength of California's economy," Schwarzenegger said in a statement.

The bill, SB 815, by Senate President Pro Tempore Don Perata (D-Oakland), would have hit employers with higher workers' compensation premiums and threatened to impede job growth, the governor said.

Perata, who had vowed to beg Schwarzenegger to sign the bill, said he was disappointed with the governor for breaking an earlier promise that the 2004 workers' compensation law would help employers save money.

"SB 815 would have made a meaningful difference for permanently disabled workers without making a scratch on the state's economy or business climate," he said.

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