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Oregon Gov. Kate Brown’s reported plan to transfer $1.4 billion from the state’s workers compensation fund to pay pension costs has drawn sharp criticism from state Republicans.
The reported transfer of funds from the nonprofit administrator of Oregon’s worker compensation system, which covers about half the state’s payroll workers, puts Oregon’s workers at risk, according to a statement on Wednesday by the Union County Republican Party
“The Governor’s proposed indiscreet confiscation of SAIF’s reserves is a smash and grab, endangering hardworking Oregon wage earners,” House Republican Leader Rep. Carl Wilson, R-Grants Pass, said in the statement. “Employees and their families depend on SAIF’s worker compensation plans during the dire times when they are injured and can’t work.”
The governor, a Democrat, is considering a plan to tap a surplus in the SAIF fund to pay off rising pension costs for K-12 schools, which was first raised as an option by a task force she appointed in 2017 to look for ways to reduce the pension system’s growing debt, the Republican Party said in a separate statement.
The amount transferred out of the fund, if that option is taken, could be far less than the reported $1.4 billion, which is two times above the fund’s risk-based capital figure.
A spokesman for the governor could not be immediately reached for comment.
“Although there have been some high-level discussions about SAIF, there’s no proposal from the governor or proposed legislation,” a spokeswoman for SAIF said in an emailed statement. “This idea has been floated before with no action. Everyone involved in this process understands the value SAIF provides to Oregon and the importance of capital to our mission. Our capital base allows us to do what we do. It provides safety and security for our policyholders and injured workers, and it enables us to keep prices low and service levels high.”
Oregon employers would see lower workers compensation rates for the sixth straight year, according to a proposal by the Oregon Department of Consumer and Business Services.