Is it time to end Alaska’s Workers’ Compensation Appeals Commission?
NFIB/Alaska State Director Denny DeWitt’s report from Juneau for the legislative week ending February 3.
Next week the first workers’ compensation bill will be heard.
House Bill 69 would repeal the Workers’ Compensation Appeals Commission. Established in 2005, the Commission has jurisdiction over appeals from decisions and orders of the Alaska Workers’ Compensation Board.
The commission was created to streamline the appeals process for injured employees and their employers rather than forcing the parties to go to court. However, it has instead created unnecessary costs and delays and has not streamlined the appeals process as was hoped.
Gas Tax Increase
House Bill 60 and Senate Bill 25 raising the gas tax by 8 cents July 1, 2017, and another 8 cents July 1, 2018, were both heard this week and will have additional hearings next week. The truckers are supportive of the bills as part of their willingness to help solve the current fiscal crisis.
The measures would also create transportation accounts in the general fund that would be used for highway maintenance. The current budget replaces general funds with the new tax fund so there is no net gain in the fund.
The Senate Judiciary Committee heard about concerns with last year’s Senate Bill 91, the criminal reform bill. Some corrective legislation is expected soon. Among the issues of concern is the fact that there is virtually no punishment for petty theft.
House Bill 92, introduced by Rep. Cathy Tilton, would create a statutory spending limit. There is never enough money for government, so many believe spending must be limited before revenue increases are considered. Click here to read NFIB’s letter of support for HB 92.
Both the House Bill 61 and the Senate Bill 21 propose to restructure the earnings reserve of the Permanent Fund to provide for its use for dividends and the cost of government. Hearings will continue through the session until there is a final decision on a fiscal plan. Use of the earning reserves will likely be part of the solution.
While only one bill, House Bill 36, proposes an income tax, NFIB expects more proposals before too long. HB 36 would establish an income tax on all businesses that are not C corporations, as they already have an income tax. The bill covers S corps, LLCs, partnerships, and sole proprietorships.
Previous Reports & Related News Releases
[Tile photo of Rep. Adam Wool courtesy of The Alaska State Legislature website]