Citing a surplus at the State Insurance Fund, two prominent legislators are calling for the fund's board to approve a dividend for the Oklahoma businesses it insures. Senator Ben Robinson and Representative Bill Settle are asking the fund board to implement a one-time dividend ranging from $60 million to $100 million.
"When there's a surplus at the fund, that means Oklahoma businesses are paying too much for their insurance. A lot of small businesses around Oklahoma are insured by the fund and they would benefit greatly from a dividend," said Senator Robinson.
"Businesses shouldn't have to pay a penny more than is necessary to keep the fund solvent. The only fair way to handle this is to give them a dividend. It's their money after all," said Representative Settle.
The two legislators are currently co-chairing an interim committee study exploring the possible privatization of the state fund. The fund, a non-profit entity, is considered the "insurer of last resort" in Oklahoma, carrying the workers comp policies of those businesses that are unable to find coverage in the private sector. It currently insures about one-third of Oklahoma businesses, 15,000 of which are considered small businesses.
At the first meeting of the interim study committee last week, the State Insurance Fund presented information that it was running a surplus. Based on the financial information provided then, the legislators believe the fund could support a $60 to $100 million dividend.
"A one-time dividend will give business owners a fair shake without jeopardizing the fiscal soundness of the fund. I think it's a win-win proposition that needs to be explored and implemented," said Senator Robinson.
"If the surpluses continue to accrue even after the rebate, we'll consider another one next year. I think it's the least we can do for Oklahoma businesses, especially small business operators," said Representative Settle.