A coalition of business groups — including PIA Oregon/Idaho — has formed to fight a proposal by Oregon Governor Kate Brown to take money from the state’s workers’ compensation program and divert it to the state’s growing PERS retirement funding crisis.
SAIF’s surplus — the coalition states — should not be used to help solve the $26 billion shortfall from the state’s PERS system. Opponents say Brown’s idea merely papers over a problem in need of a much different — and much better — solution.
The coalition points out that the quasi-public agency’s revenue’s come from the premiums of 47,000 small businesses, school districts, nonprofits and local governments. The surplus is used to assure that SAIF can easily handle work comp claims and a huge percentage of each year’s surplus is returned to the businesses purchasing the insurance from SAIF.
PIA Oregon Lobbyist Lana Butterfield said the governor’s actions are also very bad for PIA Oregon/Idaho’s member independent insurance agents, agencies and companies.
"Many PIA members serve small businesses. SAIF has stepped up to serve this community of small businesses that often have difficulty securing coverage,” she said in a statement to Weekly Industry News. “It provides a very reasonable price for a high level of worker benefits and safety. If SAIF reserves are swept, it is likely employer rates will increase substantially over time. This is not good for Oregon, small businesses or PIA members."
In a strategy paper created for the debate on the issue, the SAIF coalition said, the taking of surplus dollars will require “significant changes to SAIF’s operating structure and should be done after careful study rather than as a hasty bailout strategy for PERS.”
Plus, because of excellent management and the accumulation of large reserves, SAIF offers Oregon businesses some of the lowest workers’ compensation rates in the country.
Brown is not the first governor to consider taking surplus money from a state workers’ compensation program to offset budget troubles. PIA Montana member agents and PIA Montana have been contributing time and money to a coalition fighting a money grab by the Legislature that took $30 million from the state fund surplus. That money is to be used to shore up the state’s wildfire fighting efforts.
A lawsuit was filed by the coalition and the Montana Supreme Court should be ruling on the suit sometime later this year or early next.
Other than PIA Oregon/Idaho, these are the other groups involved in battling the governor’s ill-advised decision:
Professional Land Surveyors of Oregon
Oregon Columbia Chapter of the Associated General Contractors
Oregon Economic Development Association
National Federation of Independent Businesses
Oregon Business & Industry
Economic Development for Central Oregon
Oregon Farm Bureau
Plumbing-Heating-Cooling Contractors Association
Oregon School Boards Association
Oregon Trucking Association
Oregon Home Building Association
Oregon Vehicle Dealer Association
Northwest Grocery Association
Oregon Metals Industry Council
Oregon State Chamber of Commerce
Oregon Wheat Growers
Oregon Seed Council
Columbia Gorge Fruit Growers
Oregon Power Sports Association
Northwest Automotive Trades Association
Oregon Manufacturers and Commerce
Far West Agribusiness Association
Oregon Association of Nurseries
Oregon Concrete & Aggregate Producers Association
Associated Oregon Loggers
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