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PIA Oregon & Oregon Business Groups Begin Work Comp Surplus & PERS Battle

Posted By Staff reporter, Tuesday, March 19, 2019

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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Tags:  SAIF’s surplus — the coalition states — should not 

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