OPEA Calls on Task Force to Carefully Examine Privatization

The Oklahoma Public Employees Association is calling on a legislative task force to discuss whether or not privatizing CompSource is in the best interest of the state. The task force held its initial meeting at the Capitol Thursday to discuss dismantling and privatizing CompSource, which has provided workers compensation insurance to Oklahoma businesses and government since 1933. The task force was created by HB 1963, passed this legislative session.

“The best interest of business and local government should be the top priority of this task force,” continued Zearley. “That means the first order of business should be whether privatization is best for Oklahoma and its citizens.”

“The mission of this task force is what is the best way to privatize CompSource, not whether it should be privatized,” task force co-chair Senator Cliff Aldridge stated at the meeting.

CompSource, formerly the State Insurance Fund, was created in 1933 to provide workers compensation insurance to small business and state and local government. Currently, the agency has 35 percent of the Oklahoma market. This number has risen to 50 percent, when few insurance companies were in the Oklahoma workers compensation market. State and local government, school districts, and higher education purchase workers compensation insurance from CompSource. In addition, 70 percent of CompSource participants are small business.

“CompSource is an important public entity that stabilizes the workers compensation market and provides insurance to small businesses,” said OPEA Executive Director Sterling Zearley. “The obvious question is, ‘What are they trying to fix?’ CompSource is solvent and providing an important service to the state.”

Corporate lobbyists from insurance companies descended on the capitol this session to force HB 1963 through the process. At the task force meeting the room was overflowing with insurance company lobbyists offering their “expertise” and testimony. In addition, Aldridge, one of the champions of the legislation, is an insurance agent.

Other members of the task force include Representative Dan Sullivan, Office of State Finance Director Michael Clingman, State Insurance Commissioner Kim Holland, Independent Insurance Agents President Dan Ramsey, and two unnamed gubernatorial appointments.

“Privatization of CompSource has emerged several times in the past ten years and each time state leaders have determined its mission is critical to business and local government,” concluded Zearley. “The interests of the insurance companies and their lobbyists should not be the determining factor in this important issue.”

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