WSI board members question illegally large surplusBISMARCK — Two Workforce Safety and Insurance Board members questioned the agency’s unlawfully large surplus at a committee meeting Wednesday, after seeing the most recent of several reports showing it is well over the limit set by the state Legislature in 2005.
By: Janell Cole, N.D. Capitol Bureau
BISMARCK — Two Workforce Safety and Insurance Board members questioned the agency’s unlawfully large surplus at a committee meeting Wednesday, after seeing the most recent of several reports showing it is well over the limit set by the state Legislature in 2005.
Mark Jackson of Fargo asked during the board’s Audit Committee meeting if or when the board was planning to discuss it.
“We are out of compliance with statute,” Jackson said after seeing a report Wednesday showing that WSI reserves as of Dec. 31 were168.8 percent of it unpaid loss liability, or $1.25 billion. That is $220 million over the target of 140 percent of unpaid liability set by law.
Last June, the surplus was at 163.9 percent of its unpaid loss liability. The agency’s auditing firm also noted last fall that the fund is unlawfully large.
“It’s going in the wrong direction,” Jackson argued.
The law also says WSI must keep at least 120 percent of its estimated unpaid liability on hand.
Another board member, Ed Grossbauer of Grand Forks, agreed. “We’re very clearly out of compliance. To the regular p person who reads that statute, we’re clearly out of compliance.”
Other board members have argued at past meetings and again Wednesday that if it counts amounts set aside for safety grants and unrealized investment gains, the reserve fund isn’t as large as it looks.
“The statute doesn’t allow us to consider unrealized gains,” Jackson argued.
“What I hear you doing is questioning the statute. I don’t think you can do that,” Jackson said.
Agency Finance Director Cindy Ternes said, “I don’t believe the statute is clear.”
Grossbauer said, “Who do we ask? The Legislature? Attorney general? Our (in-house) counsel here?”
Board acting Chairman Mark Gjovig of Williston and Audit Committee Chairman Brad Ballweber of Bismarck also said Wednesday medical inflation and a diving stock market could quickly wipe out most of that overage.
But Jackson argued that Legislature has already allowed fluctuation, by setting a minimum and maximum.
Gjovig and Ballweber conceded that the fund needs to be in compliance but Gjovig cautioned that it would be dangerous to make any sharp moves.
“If you go down too fast, how do you pull it back up?” he asked.
Jackson said, “I don’t have an idea how we deal with this today. I just think we need to discuss it.”
Janell Cole works for Forum Communications Co., which owns The Dickinson Press.