BY ANDREW SPIROPOULOS
WED, FEB 27, 2013
Perennially debated issues at the state legislature have their own peculiar rhythm. With proposed tax cuts or exemptions, for example, the discussion focuses on the Oklahoma Tax Commission’s estimate of how many dollars the proposal will (depending on your perspective) cost the state or benefit the taxpayers. Perhaps it would be better if, instead, we judged the proposal based on its economic impact. For example, we should ask how much economic growth will occur or how many jobs will be created if we enact this proposal. But too often, it’s just easier to go with what we know.
The same problem arises with workers’ compensation reform legislation. The legislative dance on workers’ comp issues is similar to tax issues; the dance partners are different, but the tune is the same. The legislative leadership assembles its comprehensive reform legislation and, then, in preparation for the coming debate, just as tax bills are evaluated by the Tax Commission, the bill is “scored” by the National Council on Compensation Insurance (NCCI). The NCCI, a private organization respected by all sides in the workers’ comp debate for its gathering and analysis of workers’ comp insurance data, studies the bill and issues a report estimating how much money each of the bill’s reforms will save employers over the cost of the current system. The legislature then battles over which of the reforms to enact and, thus, how much of the cost savings can be preserved.
This week marked the beginning of this year’s dance. The primary reform vehicle, authored by Senate President Pro Tem Brian Bingman, with technical advice offered by the State Chamber, has been released to the public. Accompanying the bill is the eagerly awaited scoring by NCCI. The bill, compared to recent reform efforts, received a good score: NCCI estimates that the reforms included in the bill would reduce state workers’ comp costs by 14.2 percent, or $138 million.