Ohio’s employers would receive $1 billion back from what they’ve paid into Ohio’s insurance system for injured workers, under a proposal announced by Gov. John Kasich on Thursday.
The money would be divvied up among 210,000 businesses and governments that pay into Ohio’s worker’s compensation insurance system. The refund would equal 56 percent of each employer’s annual premium, or an average of about $4,000 per employer. Checks could go out as soon as June if the Ohio Bureau of Workers Compensation’s board approves Kasich’s plan, said BWC administrator Steve Buehrer.
Chris Kershner, a lobbyist for the Dayton Area Chamber of Commerce, said the refund would be a shot in the arm to the region’s economy.
“We’re excited about today’s announcement as it will help our hundreds of Dayton-area businesses, and help them invest in their workforce and their local operations,” Kershner said.
Kasich also proposed tripling grants for worker safety programs to $15 million, lowering companies’ workers compensation premium rates and making changes to how premiums are collected. All aspects of Kasich’s plan would be paid for out of extra money in the BWC’s coffers resulting from stronger than expected returns on the insurance system’s $24.6 billion investment portfolio, according to the governor’s office.
The refund is unrelated to a court dispute about employer BWC payments. The state is appealing a judge’s March decision that ordered the BWC to pay back $860 million to employers the judge said were charged excessive premiums for nearly a decade.
A previous analysis by this newspaper found that the BWC would pay $81 million, minus attorney fees, to nearly 29,000 employers in Montgomery, Miami, Greene, Warren, Butler, Clark, Preble and Darke counties. That’s an average of more than $2,700 per business.
Even though it maintains it’s done nothing wrong, the state has set aside the $860 million if its appeals fail, with enough money left over to fund Kasich’s plan, said BWC spokesman Bill Teets.
Earl Stein, president of a group representing the plaintiffs in that lawsuit, issued a statement Thursday calling it “encouraging” that the BWC would return money to Ohio’s employers, but also urging the system to drop its appeal and pay what the judge ordered.
State Rep. Tom Letson, D-Warren, criticized Kasich for issuing a $1 billion refund with a looming $860 million bill, and for issuing the refund so close to the 2014 gubernatorial election year.
Information from the Associated Press was used in this article.