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Friday, June 13, 2014

NJ Senate OKs cost-of-living increases to workers' comp

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A bill that would add cost-of-living increases to some workers' compensation payments in New Jersey passed in the state Senate Thursday. The bill had been opposed by the New Jersey Business and Industry Association, which said it would cost the state's private employers $58 million a year.

Prospects are unclear for the proposal, which was sponsored by Senate President Stephen Sweeney and Sen. Fred Madden Jr., both South Jersey Democrats. There is no matching bill in the state Assembly, although other bills address the issue. The bill's sponsors could not be reached Thursday for comment.

Under the bill, which passed 21-15, people who were totally and permanently disabled by work injuries after 1980 would receive a cost-of-living adjustment every year once they turn 65. The increases would start in July 2015. The adjustment would be funded by a surcharge to private employers, on top of the workers' compensation premiums they pay to insurance companies and other payments they already make to a state fund.

According to the state Department of Labor and Workforce Development, the maximum workers' compensation benefit is $843 a week.

Christine Stearns, vice-president of the New Jersey Business and Industry Association, said that under the bill, public employers would not pay into the fund.

"So these cost-of-living adjustments would be shouldered solely by private employers, but all beneficiaries would be eligible for the...

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