Panel Debates Second Injury Fund’s Future

Panel Debates Second Injury Fund’s Future

By Mike Whitely, WorkCompCentral

September 19, 2006

The South Carolina Senate’s Workers’ Compensation Study Committee will hear arguments today over the fate of the state’s second injury fund — one of several around the nation that some businesses have slated for extinction.

The panel will hold its second session beginning at 9 a.m. in room 105 of the Gressette Building, 1101 Pendleton St., in Columbia. The debate will focus on the future of the fund, which has pitted the South Carolina Chamber of Commerce against the South Carolina Small Business Chamber of Commerce.

In 2005, the South Carolina Second Injury Fund saw estimated, loss-based assessments double to $253 million from the $127 million assessed the previous year. It had an unfunded liability of $279.3 million as of November 2005. That’s expected to dip in 2008 and then increase to $332 million by 2011.

Among those scheduled to testify are Mike Harris, the fund’s deputy director, and Frank Knapp, president of the Small Business Chamber.

The South Carolina Chamber has not requested time at tomorrow’s hearing. But a spokeswoman said executives of four or five its largest member businesses will speak.

Knapp’s group last year commissioned a consultant’s report that concluded 51% of the employers sampled had not received required rate modifications based on their loss experience. But the Small Business Chamber resisted a bid last year by the South Carolina Chamber to abolish the fund.

Opponents of scrapping the fund say that would boost rates by 17% at a time when the state’s chief administrative law judge is considering a 32.9% increase to workers’ compensation rates. The chamber said the fund serves an estimated 2,000 injured workers.

The four-member Senate panel, headed by Sen. Larry Martin, R-Pickens, is reviewing a variety of calls for reform and will make recommendations to the 2007 Legislature.