ALBANY - Worker's compensation premiums are likely to decrease 4.5 percent in New York this year, a move Gov. Andrew Cuomo's office estimates will save employers $400 million.

The recommended cut from the New York Compensation Insurance Rating Board comes a year after premiums increased by more than 9 percent and is in part due to reforms included in the state's budget, which lawmakers approved last month.

The state Department of Financial Services will have to approve the recommended cut before it takes effect Oct. 1.

New York has long had some of the highest worker's compensation premiums in the country, ranking third in 2016 with costs 54 percent higher than the national median, according to a study by the Oregon Department of Consumer and Business Services.

The insurance board's recommendation credits the recent reforms for slightly more than a third of the 4.5 percent decrease, with the rest attributed to the amount of claims filed in recent years and other structural savings.

"With this rate decrease, New York is providing real savings to businesses helping to make them more competitive while strengthening protections for injured workers at companies across the state," Cuomo said Monday in a statement.

The cost-cutting reform in the state budget sets a limit on temporary worker's compensation benefits before a permanent benefit is awarded, a move business groups have long pushed for.

Mike Durant, state director of the National Federation of Independent Business, said the reforms are a "good first step." He credited Senate Republicans for pushing them through.

"We ended up with progress, and it's good progress," Durant said. "But I think (last year's) premium increase indicates that there's a lot more work that needs to be done on that front."

It also included several other measures hailed by labor unions, including a measure making it easier for fire and emergency management officials to claim stress-related benefits. The most seriously injured workers can also obtain an exemption to the new limits on temporary benefits.

“We said we would prevent benefit cuts, and we did,” said Mario Cilento, president of the NYS AFL-CIO.
Sen. Fred Akshar, R-Colesville, Broome County, hailed the insurance board's recommendation, but said there's "more work to do."

"These initial savings will be a significant step in right direction for both employers and injured workers," he said in a statement.