Over the years I've been in the Legislature and since, the workers' compensation system has increasingly become an adversarial system marked by power politics and "zero sum" thinking in terms of premiums and benefits and protracted litigation. It has eroded the spirit if not the letter of the win/win contract as it was originally conceived. At one point last session I felt compelled to characterize the workers' compensation system as the "Bosnia" of Oregon politics. This climate has created a landscape littered with employee corpses along the way. The people who have suffered from the process have been the employees, the people who are supposed to benefit from the system.

Governor Kitzhaber, Charge to the Management-Labor Advisory Committee, June 11, 1996.

"Other states recognize Oregon as a leader in developing a successful, responsible workers' compensation system," Governor Kitzhaber said. "Regulatory reform and a strong occupational safety and health program have helped cut our insurance costs while reducing the number of workers hurt or even killed on the job. At the same time we've been able to increase maximum benefits for workers who are injured.

Governor Kitzhaber added, "This kind of success doesn't come from playing politics or trying to evade responsibility. It comes from putting differences aside and working together for the common good. Oregon employers, workers, insurers, and state government have done this to create a workers' compensation system we can all rely on."

Governor Kitzhaber, Workers' Compensation Focus*, Winter 1998.


* Focus is published by the Department of Consumer Business Services, Workers' Comp Division.