Newspaper article THE JOURNAL RECORD

Reneau, Council Seek Permanent Funding Source

Newspaper article THE JOURNAL RECORD

Reneau, Council Seek Permanent Funding Source

Article excerpt

Labor Commissioner Brenda Reneau and the Worker Safety Policy Council are asking lawmakers to enact legislation that would eliminate the use of Special Indemnity Fund money for programs at the Department of Labor, the Department of Vocational and Technical Education and the attorney general's office.

The proposal was at the top of the list of recommendations for the 1999 session presented by Reneau and the council on Thursday.

"This is the second straight year the Worker Safety Policy Council has recommended that the Legislature find a permanent funding solution for these authorized safety programs," Reneau said. "With the Special Indemnity Fund at least $22 million in the hole, it only makes sense to seek permanent funding from another source."

The Legislature has embraced the importance of workplace safety and the labor department has proven the success of the concept with its Safety Pays OSHA consultation program, she said.

"Injured workers, however, should not be forced to wait months, even years, to receive disability payments from a well which is drying up a little more each year," the labor commissioner added.

The council is proposing legislation to permanently fund safety and fraud prevention programs developed by the labor and vo-tech departments and the attorney general's office.

The Legislature distributes special indemnity funds to support safety programs including 5 percent of gross receipts assigned to the labor department with 2.5 percent each to vo-tech and the attorney general's office.

Programs supported through indemnity fund resources include the labor department's consultation and Safety Pays outreach programs, vo-tech's safety education efforts and the attorney general's Workers Compensation Fraud Unit.

The proposal calls for a 3 percent to 5 percent surcharge on all payments made under the state workers compensation system to attorneys and medical providers. Proceeds would be transferred to a special account and distributed among the labor and vo-tech departments and the attorney general.

"Attorneys and medical providers reap the financial reward from our costly workers compensation system," Reneau said. …

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