Put your hand on your wallet. You might want to keep it there as long as Kenny Hulshof is talking about “reforming” the Second Injury Fund. In fact, my warning about Hulshof’s shady motives is a corollary of this general rule: Count the silverware anytime Republicans propose to save the government money.
Hulshof says the Second Injury Fund, which compensates workers when an on-the-job injury exacerbates an already existing injury, will become insolvent in 2009. He blames Jay Nixon for that because second injury payouts have gone up from $20 million in 1993 to $63 million now. Hulshof proposes to save the fund by lowering the cap on onetime payouts from $60,000 to $40,000.
Naturally, Hulshof declines to mention, much less blame, Republican legislation in 2005 that capped the amount of the surcharges that could be levied against employers to keep the fund solvent. And although Hulshof accepts the PricewaterhouseCoopers study that backs up state auditor Susan Montee’s assertion that the fund is about to go broke, he conveniently skips the part of the study that he doesn’t like: to wit, that lowering the caps of onetime payouts would be poor business practice. (Inducing claimants to accept one time payouts instead of opting for lifelong payments saves the state money in the long run.) Oh and, by the way, PricewaterhouseCoopers also mentions that Nixon is doing a good job of administering the fund.
Oops. How inconvenient. And Hulshof believes in ignoring inconvenient information. He wants those caps on awards reduced because he doesn’t give a rat’s ass whether he saves the state money in the long run; he just wants to keep the Second Injury Fund underfunded enough so that he can, a la Norquist, drown it in a bathtub someday.
Ever since the Republican Golden Boy, Attorney General William Webster, got sent to the pen in the early nineties for treating the Fund as his private warchest, the state GOP has had it in for SIF. Anything to please Wal-Mart and Ameren UE. Screw the little guy.
Webster, in case you’ve forgotten your state history, was caught promising attorneys for plaintiffs in Second Injury Fund suits that if they’d put some goodies in his campaign warchest, they’d get favorable treatment from lawyers defending the Fund. Ever since then, SIF has been both a sour reminder of an embarrassing moment and a symbol of all the bleeding heart sympathies of Democrats. Republicans hate it.
Last year they tried to sneak the management of the Fund out of the AG’s office and put it in the Department of Labor and Industrial Relations. Nathan Cooper–who’s since been sent to the pen for infractions of a different nature than Webster’s–defended the move, once the tactic came to light. Jeff Harris called the attempted stealth legislation a reminder of “the tawdry reign of William Webster as Attorney General of Missouri”.
Bad enough that Republicans won’t give up on their sneak attacks, but to paint them as altruistic concern for the little guy? Hey. Kenny. I’ll believe you’re serious about preserving the Fund so it can help injured workers. Sure I will. Just as soon as octopi speak English.