Cuomo’s budget plan hurts injured workers, economy

Gov. Andrew Cuomo has announced his New York State budget for this fiscal year. He promises “no new taxes” and a “fiscally responsible budget.” However, if you look closer, he proposes that $1.2 billion be removed from the reserves of the New York State Insurance Fund, New York’s largest workers’ compensation insurance carrier, and deposited into the General Fund. If not stopped, this move amounts to a “back-door” tax on employers and will severely impact injured workers, employers and Western New York’s efforts to grow our economy.

If the $1.2 billion in the reserve fund is an excessive reserve, New York’s employers have been overly assessed and are entitled to a rebate on premiums already paid. If the reserve fund is not excessive, employers will face increased premiums to make up for the loss of $1.2 billion. The probability of a rebate to employers is not great. That leaves a rate increase as a likely result. This will impact employers, as well as our economy, just as if there had been a tax increase.

Injured workers have already been impacted by the so-called reforms enacted in 2007. Despite growing restrictions placed upon the rights of injured workers, the Business Council has advocated further restrictions because of purported cost increases. The fact is workers’ compensation costs in New York have decreased. Where is the Business Council’s opposition to Cuomo’s proposal to raid the reserves of the State Insurance Fund? Maybe the Business Council will use the probability of a rate increase, brought about as a result of the need to replenish the fund reserves, to advocate for even more restrictions upon the rights of injured workers.

Our elected representatives in Albany need to enact a balanced budget that does not raise taxes. However, such a budget should not be balanced on the backs of employers and injured workers.

Thomas A. Lambert