The Business Council opposes this legislation which in effect indexes state funding for the occupational health clinic network and for state occupational safety and health training programs to statutory increases in maximum weekly benefit for permanent partial disability cases under the Workers' Compensation Law.
As these programs are funded exclusively through assessments on workers' compensation coverage – paid primarily by private sector employers – we oppose this attempt to guarantee significant annual increases in program funding, and increases in assessments.
We believe that any increase in funding, or a change in the funding mechanism, for occupational health clinics should be done in conjunction with reforms in oversight of the clinic network. For example, a statewide clinic network advisory committee – involving state, business and labor representatives - required by 1989 statute, has never been appointed. Likewise, there is no current statutory requirement for both joint business and labor involvement in the management of regional clinics. We believe that an active state oversight panel will help assure effective use of clinic resources.
We also note that many employers in New York are facing unprecedented increases in Workers' Compensation assessments due to recent failures of self-insured trusts. Self-insured employers and groups have seen nearly $60 million increases in assessments over the past two years, with significant additional increases likely for the next several years.
This legislation would result in increases in funding, and assessments, of at least 10 percent in 2008 and 9.1 percent in 2009, with annual future increases based on the increase in the average weekly wage.
While The Business Council welcomes a broader discussion of the future of the state's occupation health clinics and its occupational safety training programs, we cannot support an indexing of state financing and employer assessments for these purposes. For these reasons, we respectfully oppose approval of S.6913 / A.4508-b.