Columbus, OH (WorkersCompensation.com) – Business leaders in Ohio are calling on their legislature to find other ways to balance the budget besides taking money from the state’s Bureau of Workers’ Compensation and Industrial Commission funds.
A Senate-passed budget authorization allows the Ohio budget director to take up to 2 percent of a variety of funds to balance the budget. The funds — including the Industrial Commission, the Bureau of Workers’ Compensation, the Environmental Protection Agency, the Department of Insurance and others — are primary made up of fees and assessments paid by businesses for specific purposes.
“This language sets an extremely dangerous precedent of allowing the state to ‘raid’ the budgets of these exclusively employer-funded agencies,” said a letter from the Ohio Chamber of Commerce, NFIB (National Federation of Independent Business)/Ohio, the Ohio Manufacturers’ Association and the Ohio Council of Retail Merchants, according to a story in the Columbus Dispatch.
The budget authorization was needed, Senate leaders say, to fill the $1 billion gap in the budget that Gov. John Kasich presented to the legislature in January. In March, the state’s Legislative Services Commission revised its estimate for state revenues, projecting that the state would receive $949 million less over the budget’s two-year period, $934 million of that from reduced tax revenues.
According to John Fortney, spokesman for Senate President Larry Obhof (R-Median), the transfers were no different than the 3-to 4-percent cuts to most state agencies that Republicans determined were necessary.
“This is overhead money, and during the budget process we made it clear there would be reductions to agency operating budgets across the board. That includes a 6% reduction in the Senate’s budget,” Fortney said in an email interview with WorkersCompensation.com.
The AFL-CIO (American Federation of Labor and Congress of Industrial Organizations) and trial attorneys also expressed concern that the transfers may be illegal, as the funds were designated for a specific purpose.
“It has no other purpose,” the groups said, according to the Dispatch. “Thus the Ohio Supreme Court long ago held that it is unlawful to transfer moneys from the fund to unrelated accounts, such as the general revenue fund.”
Fortney said discussions between the House and Senate are ongoing, and that changes are to be expected. A reconciled budget is expected to be sent to the Governor within the next few days, he said.
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