Following is the Weekly Republican Radio Address from Senator Dana Dow, the Senate Republican Leader.
In the early ‘90s, times were very different than they are today. Maine’s economy was in a tailspin, state revenues were declining and legislators were considering enactment of a $3.2 billion budget.
Most notably during that time, workers’ compensation
insurance was increasingly difficult for employers to come by as insurance providers
were pulling out of the state market, leaving very few options for coverage.
During this time, Maine had the most expensive workers’ compensation coverage
in the country.
As an employer, I remember this time all too well. Hi, I’m
Dana Dow, the Republican Leader in the Maine Senate. I represent District 13.
Times were turbulent during the early ‘90s for employers in
Maine, and this turbulence was felt throughout the whole economy, which is why
Republicans insisted on comprehensive reforms to fix the broken system.
Fast forward to today and our workers’ compensation system
has been stable for nearly thirty years, there are more jobs, state revenue is
booming, and we are considering an $8 billion budget.
Times are good, yet Democrats have forgotten the path we
took to get here and are proposing to reverse many of the important workers’
compensation reforms that we fought so hard to enact in 1991.
The Labor and Housing Committee is working on combining
these bills into one bill, but in my opinion, we should vote them all down. The
reason is simple – the current system is not broken. It does an adequate job at
striking a healthy balance between employees and employers while bringing
much-needed predictability and price stability to the system.
By rocking this boat, we will hurt job growth, discourage
investment in our state, hurt small businesses that provide so many jobs in our
communities and it will discourage new businesses from coming here to open.
According to sources within the workers’ compensation
industry, the current slate of bills could increase the cost of this critical
coverage to Maine employers significantly, and there is nothing in the package
currently being worked by the committee that would address fraud within the
system or control costs.
In addition to increasing the cost of hiring Maine workers, much
of the increases proposed would go to legal fees paid to attorneys, not to the
injured employees where the benefits belong.
Other costly reforms currently under consideration would increase
the maximum rate paid out by 20 percent, lift the cap on benefits, essentially
turning the program into a lifetime benefit, and make it easier to claim stress
as a disability – all very expensive to a system that wasn’t broken.
Many of the measures sought by Democrats today open the door
for widespread abuse and discourage the return to the workforce. Putting cost
aside, Maine currently has more job openings than employees. Certain sectors,
such as health care, are starving for qualified Mainers to employ.
So I would argue that our efforts should go towards expanding
access to training programs, developing our skilled workforce and connecting
businesses with the hardworking staff they require so we can continue to move
our economy in the right direction. We can’t afford to return to the pre-1991
workers’ compensation system that nearly broke our state economy.
Thanks for listening. Again, I’m Senator Dana Dow, Republican Leader in the Maine Senate.