The State Senate has taken court action to preserve an insurance rebate that would reward thousands of Oklahoma businesses and pay off approximately 6,000 injured workers in the process.
The Senate is fighting a lawsuit filed by the Oklahoma State Chamber of Commerce that would overturn a state law ordering the State Insurance Fund to refund surplus money to its customers. The fund sells workers compensation insurance to approximately one-third of Oklahoma's businesses and to many state agencies. The state plans to use its share of the refund to pay off injured workers who are owed money by the Special Indemnity Fund or Multiple Injury Trust Fund.
The Senate filed its motion to intervene in Oklahoma County District Court on Wednesday afternoon. A hearing has been set for Thursday, March 23rd before District Judge Niles Jackson.
"We think the insurance fund should return the surplus to the people who created it - the businesspeople of Oklahoma. The Legislature and Governor Keating have authorized a refund, business owners deserve a refund and they should get a refund, regardless of what the State Chamber of Commerce thinks," said Senator Stratton Taylor, President Pro Tempore of the Senate.
"Killing the rebate isn't fair to the businesses of Oklahoma and it's certainly not fair to the 6,000 injured workers who are patiently waiting for the money that's owed to them. Hopefully, this legal action will get things back on track for business owners and injured workers. "
The rebate to Oklahoma businesses, which could go as high as $150 million, would be the equivalent of one-year-and-a-half of free comp insurance for the average policyholder.
"We're talking about a sizable refund that will pump millions of dollars into Oklahoma businesses and the state economy. It's just like passing a $150 million tax cut," said Senator Taylor.
Officials with the State Chamber have claimed that the refund might cause the State Insurance Fund to raise premiums in the future, but a recent actuarial study debunked that argument. It indicated that the rebate would not harm the fund in any way.
"If you examine the facts and ignore the rhetoric, it's clear that Governor Keating and the Legislature did the right thing when they ordered the refund," said Senator Taylor.