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July 11, 2014

Chairman talks workers’ comp

ENID, Okla. — On his second day as chairman of the Oklahoma Workers’ Compensation Commission, Troy Wilson read a report predicting workers’ compensation rates in the state would drop 14 percent.

“I called the governor and asked, ‘How am I doing now?’” Wilson told members of the Enid Regional Development Alliance during their annual meeting and quarterly luncheon Thursday.

Changes in the new workers’ compensation commission, aimed at streamlining the process and creating a more worker-focused system, are predicted to save the state about $1.5 million, Wilson said.

Those changes include making digital recordings of hearings instead of having a court reporter present to create a transcript. Other changes include having hearings in the presence of an administrative law judge instead of a court judge and using techniques such as mediation for dispute resolution.

Wilson said workers’ compensation rates in Oklahoma are about 150 percent of the national average. Employers would save $330 million if rates could be lowered to the national average. Lowering rates to the regional average would save employers $450 million, Wilson said.

“You can’t compete with other states and have those kind of numbers,” Wilson said.

The old, judicial-based workers’ compensation system benefited too few people, Wilson said.

“It is not wise, it is not smart, for anybody, especially a government entity, to put together a system that benefits the few at the expense of the many,” Wilson said.

Brent Kisling, ERDA executive director, asked alliance members if anyone had questions.

During the annual meeting portion of Thursday’s luncheon meeting, Jimmy Stallings, chairman of the ERDA board, reminded members about major accomplishments during the last year, including approval of a TIF to help with a $1.2 billion expansion of Koch Nitrogen, construction beginning on the Breckinridge Wind Farm and new housing development starts. Additionally, FedEx has announced plans for an expanded distribution center, Select Energy Services and Northstar Well Services both bought land to increase employment in the area, and the city approved an incentive package to rehabilitate a truck stop at 42nd and U.S. 412.

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