Back in the 1980s, Maine’s Workers compensation system was badly broken. The system became dangerously unbalanced. Costs soared. Major insurers left the state entirely.
The crisis even led to the shutdown of state government for sixteen days in 1991 when Republican Governor John McKernan insisted that the new budget include workers comp reform.
In 1992, this reform led to a balance between the rights of workers and those of businesses in Maine.
Hello, my name is Stacey Guerin. I am the State Senator for District 10 and I serve as the Senate Republican lead on the two very important committees that oversee business policy in Maine.
Legislation currently being debated seeks to reverse these reforms and brings us back to the days when Maine had the most expensive Workers Comp system in the country.
This is important because while Workers Comp benefits are paid out by Maine businesses, they must pass on those costs to their customers in order to remain viable. This means the cost of everything Maine businesses provide will go up in order to cover these increased cost and there will be no money left to raise employee wages.
If we abandon the reforms of 1992, and raise the cost of Workers Comp in Maine, all of us will pay more at the grocery store, the gas pump, restaurants, convenience stores, even Dunkin Donuts.
In reality, any increase in the cost of Workers Comp is paid for by all Mainers.
The Democrats proposal raises the maximum benefit to 125% of Maine’s Average Weekly wage—that’s 25% more than the average working Mainer earns each week.
It extends the period during which an employee must report an injury to 90 days. It is hard to fathom a situation where an employee is injured on the job seriously enough to need Workers Comp benefits but not report it for three months.
It forces businesses to pay death benefits to the parents of a deceased worker if the worker had no dependents even if the parents were not dependent upon their child’s income.
It requires the system to pay attorneys up to 77% more than they receive now, and currently, no one is complaining that workers are not getting adequate legal representation.
Each proposal that increases the cost of Workers Comp stops existing Maine businesses from growing, giving raises and better benefits to their employees, discourages new businesses from ever opening in Maine, and leaves some businesses no choice but to leave Maine.
This drives down employment opportunities and lowers wages for Maine workers.
Democrats and Governor Mills said they wanted to work with Republicans to craft responsible Workers Comp reform. They fashioned a special committee to reach compromises. But they rejected the person Republicans nominated without asking for an alternative. Republicans cried “foul” when the so-called compromise proposal was presented. Working with a large group of Maine businesses, Republicans presented their own version for consideration.
The business community compromise has one especially important component for injured workers. This component specifies that 100% of the increase in benefits go to the injured worker and not to attorneys.
Our reasonable proposal is now being considered and we are hoping for a fair compromise.
Since January, Democrats have forced through bill after bill that harms Maine’s small businesses. They forced them to give paid sick leave to people who have been employed for as little as 150 days. Another proposed bill would force Maine businesses to pay employees for up to 20 weeks while they are on medical leave.
Each one of these anti-business actions hurts the prosperity in Maine economy that we have all worked so hard to achieve. And the irresponsible and unnecessary proposal to undo Workers Comp reform is the worst of all.
Thank you for listening to this week’s Republican radio address. Again, I’m Stacey Guerin, the State Senator from District 10.