Using money from the state's workers' compensation trust fund to pay for its administration is.
AWB's Kris Tefft and three others representing the business community called on lawmakers Thursday to stop the expansion of what has become a decade-long raid on the workers' comp trust fund.
The fund is supposed to pay claims for injured workers, but it has turned into something of a cookie jar for lawmakers.
The proposed pilot farm worker intern program contained in SSB 6349 would represent the latest assault on it.
Members of the business panel asked legislators in the House Health & Human Services Appropriations Committee to either find another source of funding for the intern program, or drop it entirely.
The cost of the proposed intern program is relatively modest -- about $50,000 now, down from the $400,000 cost of the original bill.
But the amount of money diverted annually from the trust fund for non-workers' comp-related programs is far from trivial.
Approximately $50 million per year in non-workers' comp-related spending is now diverted from the fund each year as a result of previous raids, said Patrick Connor of the National Federation of Independent Business.
That's real money considering that the Department of Labor & Industries just raised workers' comp insurance rates an average 7.6 percent in order to generate $117 million, Tefft said.
It's also important to understand how close to insolvency the workers' comp trust fund is, Tefft told lawmakers. He noted the recent state audit that found one part of the workers' comp fund has a nearly 75 percent chance of becoming insolvent in the next two years.
Small diversions like the one proposed in the bill continue to add pressure to the workers' comp system, said Christine Swanson, government affairs manager for Associated General Contractors.
Amy Brackenbury of the Building Industry Association of Washington called the diversion "nothing more than a hidden little payroll tax for the state's smallest employers."
Committee members signaled that the legislation might not advance.
Rep. Alex Wood, D-Spokane, said he agreed philosophically that money from the workers' comp trust fund should not be diverted for other purposes.
"I'm with you on this," Wood told the businesses panel. "We shouldn't be doing this."