Gov. expected to approve $81 million in ND workers’ comp credits; will cut bills in half

Thursday, June 17, 2010

ND employers to get $81M break on work comp bills

BISMARCK, N.D. — Thousands of North Dakota employers will be getting their workers’ compensation insurance bills cut in half as part of a reduction that Gov. John Hoeven is expected to approve.

The Workforce Safety and Insurance agency’s advisory board on Thursday recommended the break. It will reduce companies’ payments by about $81 million during the next budget year, which begins July 1.

“To be able to use that money, instead of paying workers’ comp premiums, to be able to enhance their businesses … that’s pretty substantial,” said Bryan Klipfel, the agency’s director.

Hoeven has the final say on whether any dividends are distributed. He appoints the advisory board, and his spokesman, Don Canton, said Thursday that the governor planned to endorse the board’s recommendation.

About 14,000 of the 21,000 employers who carry coverage will benefit, Klipfel said. The dividends may not reduce a company’s insurance bill below $250, which is the minimum yearly premium set in North Dakota law.

Klipfel said a rebound in the investment results for the agency’s reserve funds made the dividend possible.

During the 2008-09 budget year, the fund’s returns dropped 10.25 percent, according to the state Retirement and Investment Office. The fund has earned 13.8 percent from July 1, 2009, through March 31, its most recent financial report shows. It has $1.23 billion in assets.

Workforce Safety and Insurance did not pay a dividend during its current budget year, after doling out about $274 million in credits during the previous four years. In the 2008-09 budget period, the agency awarded dividends of up to 62 percent, and Klipfel said this year’s dividend absence prompted numerous complaints from employers.

“They were rather upset,” he said. “With this next year, with their premiums … reduced 50 percent, I’d hope they would be pretty happy.”

Workforce Safety and Insurance is required to pay dividends to employers if its financial surplus is more than 40 percent of its required reserves. Klipfel said the $81 million will leave the surplus at $311.2 million, which is about 39 percent more than what is required.

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