SACRAMENTO — Employers, especially owners of small businesses, are about to see increases in their workers' compensation insurance bills.

Insurance Commissioner Dave Jones looked at the $14-billion-a-year market and advised that premium increases of 6.7% would not be out of line for policies that take effect after Jan. 1. The state's largest carrier, the government-run State Compensation Insurance Fund, plans to raise its rates roughly 6.5% beginning in March.

Workers' compensation coverage, which is paid by employers, covers medical costs and disability benefits for victims of on-the-job injuries.

Upcoming rate increases should be modest, said David DePaolo, chief executive of the website workcompcentral. "I don't think there's a whole lot of panic right now."

But small-business operators say that even a small jump in workers' compensation costs could mean the difference between profit or loss.

"We're going to get hit with this at the same time as the minimum wage is increased," said Jeff Kavin, the owner of Greenblatt's Deli in West Hollywood.

For-profit colleges

California needs to strengthen its oversight of some for-profit, private colleges that typically offer vocational and technical training, a new state report says.

The schools have attracted scrutiny because of aggressive recruitment and poor-quality teaching that leaves students with unpaid loans, the report said. For example, a U.S. Senate investigation found that private, for-profit schools accounted for about 13% of all postsecondary students nationally. But these students received 25% of federal financial aid and were responsible for more than half of all federal student loan defaults.

In October, state Atty. Gen. Kamala D. Harris sued Corinthian Colleges Inc. and its subsidiaries, accusing the Santa Ana company of false and predatory advertising, securities fraud and intentional misrepresentation to students. Corinthian denied the allegations and said it is committed to regulatory compliance.

In its report, the state's independent Legislative Analyst's Office is recommending that a little-known agency, the Bureau for Private Postsecondary Education, focus on unaccredited schools and other programs that could present risks to students and taxpayers. The report also recommended that the Legislature broaden the bureau's authority to online-only, for-profit colleges.

Money back

State tax collectors have a nearly $300-million holiday surprise for California businesses.

For years, the state has required businesses to put up security deposits to cover the possibility of any unpaid sales taxes so the state wouldn't be shortchanged.

In a boost to small businesses, the state Board of Equalization has voted unanimously to rebate an estimated $67 million in security deposits and eliminate $228 million more in surety bonds and personal guarantees — after any current tax liabilities are canceled. The board also agreed to stop collecting most security deposits.

marc.lifsher@latimes.com

Twitter: @MarcLifsher