Pinnacol plan takes next step through House

A plan to take $500 million from a workers’ compensation-insurance company to balance the state budget is cruising through the state House after gaining approval in the Senate.

The House Appropriations Committee on Tuesday passed measures to restructure the insurance carrier, Pinnacol Assurance, and to take $500 million of its reserves for spending in the state’s $18.9 billion budget.

The plan moving through the Legislature calls for $300 million of the $500 million from Pinnacol to replace money cut from the spending plans for colleges and universities. The remainder would be used in the general fund.

The plan won’t get the support of any House Republicans save the one who serves on the budget-writing committee, said state Rep. Laura Bradford, R-Grand Junction.

Instead of increasing government spending, “Government needs to shrink,” Bradford said.

The Legislature should cut spending now to avoid having to return to Denver in the middle of the year when new revenue estimates come out, Bradford said.

Pinnacol has promised a court fight against the raid on its reserves and state Rep. Steve King, R-Grand Junction, said that it appears to be ready to wage a protracted battle.

Gov. Bill Ritter has raised the idea of a 2.5 percent pay reduction for state employees, but the idea has yet to gain any traction, King said.

“The fact that it’s not an option is unacceptable,” he said.

Ritter has said the cuts to higher education can’t be allowed, but hasn’t committed himself to any way of preventing them.

Taking money from Pinnacol, he said, would have to be “the right thing to do,” Ritter has said.

Ritter isn’t alone in taking no position.

The Workers Compensation Education Association, an organization representing claimants’ lawyers in workers’ compensation cases, on April 7 considered the proposal to take
Pinnacol’s reserves and ultimately decided to remain neutral, said John Sbarbaro, who
heads the organization.


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