Blackwell's View of the Workers' Compensation Problem in Ohio
It's the employees! It has nothing to do with the scandals which moved from the top to just a little further down from the top. His idea is a horrible one, by the way. What else is new?Blackwell Urges Getting Ohio out of Workers Comp Business Apr 6, 2006 8:18 a.m.
By George Nelson
YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio -- If elected Ohio governor, J. Kenneth Blackwell said he wants to get the state out of providing workers' compensation.
The Ohio secretary of state, who is seeking the Republican nomination for governor, addressed the governmental affairs committee of the Youngstown/Warren Regional Chamber. More than 30 chamber members and guests attended the noon luncheon, held at the Youngstown Club.
Blackwell, who is facing Attorney General Jim Petro for the GOP nomination in the May 2 primary, told the audience during a question-and-answer session that Ohio is one of only three states that provides its own workers' compensation program.
If he is elected, Ohioans would have somebody in the governor's office "that says it is idiotic to think that a centralized government bureaucracy * can run an insurance company and run an investment fund better than the private sector," he asserted. The other 47 states have realized that the cost to employers is reduced by "a more efficiently run system" that doesn't have what he characterized as "governmental red tape" worked into it.
In addition, Blackwell said the current system is "a big doorway to big corruption which we're now starting to experience, and * you pay for the incompetence, the inefficiency and the corruption."
Ohio's Bureau of Workers' Compensation has been at the heart of scandal for about at year, since The Blade in Toledo began publishing stories about BWC's investment with a coin fund managed by Toledo Republican power broker Tom Noe. The reports triggered state and federal investigations and led to the discovery of hundreds of millions in losses on controversial investments by the state insurance fund.
Blackwell noted that Ohio, which 36 years ago ranked among the top five states for job creation, now places 47th in the nation. Over the past 10 year's, the state's population has grown by an average one-half of 1% -- if just native-born Americans were counted, that figure would have been in the negative, he noted.
"We're running young people of marrying age out of the state at an alarming rate. They're chasing jobs and elevated incomes, and they're chasing the flight of capital," he said. "Capital seeks the path of least resistance and greatest opportunity, pure and simple."
Blackwell attributed the flight of capital, business formation and job creation to three factors: a "confiscatory" tax structure, lawsuit abuse and excessive regulation. Among his proposals, he recommended moving Ohio to a single rate income tax system, with a rate of 3.25%.
In addition, Blackwell proposed using Ohio's institutions of higher learning to develop clean coal technology. Used in conjunction with ethanol and wind generation, Ohio would be able to provide the lowest-cost energy in the region and the nation, he said.
Meeting with reporters just prior to his presentation, Blackwell also addressed the recent disclosure that the financial manager handling his investments last year purchased stock in Diebold Inc., a voting machine manufacturer that benefited from decisions he made as secretary of state. Blackwell said the shares were subsequently sold at a loss.
Blackwell said he is not focusing on current polling indicating that while he is leading Petro in the race for the Republican nomination, both candidates trail in a contest with the expected Democratic gubernatorial nominee, U.S. Rep. Ted Strickland of Lisbon. However, he expressed confidence that he would be the eventual Republican candidate. He characterized Strickland as a "big taxer and big spender," a combination that will never create the sort of jobs Ohioans need, he said.
"We're going to have to reduce the cost of doing business in the state of Ohio or we're going to see a continued flight of jobs and capital. This area doesn't need any more capital or businesses or jobs fleeing," he said, citing financial uncertainty at Forum Health and bankrupt Delphi Corp, as well as the decision to eliminate the third shift at the General Motors Lordstown Assembly Complex.
"We need a governor that knows how to get the economy going and to get it producing jobs, and I think I'm that governor," he continued. "I don't think Ted Strickland is that governor and when I have the opportunity to focus my attention on him I will handle him the way I intend to handle Jim Petro."