Ohio Gov. DeWine signs $109.5 million industrial commission budget

Gov. Mike DeWine on Thursday signed into law a $109.5 million, two-year budget for Ohio’s industrial commission.

House Bill 79 sets a $54.6 million budget for the 2020 fiscal year, a 13.3 percent increase over 2019, and a $54.8 million budget for the 2021 fiscal year. The budget matches the level DeWine included in his executive biennial budget earlier this year.

The state does not fund the commission’s budget through the General Revenue Fund (GRF) but instead funds it through a surcharge on workers’ compensation. State officials say the budget will cover wage increases following the last collective bargaining agreement.

“Prudent fiscal management has enabled the Commission to maintain a stable environment for Administrative Cost rates for our Ohio employer group stakeholders,” Tim Bainbridge, chairman of the Industrial Commission of Ohio, told the Senate in written testimony earlier this month. “We intend to maintain the optimal rate structure through the end of the next biennial budget period to fund operations and benefit Ohio’s injured workers and employers.”

Despite the increase, the commission’s budget is below its 12-year high of $123.6 million during the 2008-09 budget, Bainbridge noted. In signing the bill, DeWine did not issue any line-item vetoes related to the budget.

The commission has reduced its staff from 643 positions in 1997 to 335 as of January through attrition and without layoffs, Bainbridge said in his testimony. The budget includes a 2.75 percent pay increase in 2020 and a 3 percent pay increase in 2021.

The commission handles appeals of Ohio Bureau of Workers’ Compensation (BWC) and self-insured employer decisions. Law requires the commission to hold a hearing within 45 days of an appeal’s filing, and the commission must issue an order within seven days.

In 2018, the commission’s 82 hearing officers adjudicated more than 114,000 claims.

“The IC intends to maintain our momentum by continuing to upgrade our technological hearing process structure and focusing on the assurance of quality decisions rendered in a timely manner while building on our history of fiscal prudence through realized savings,” Bainbridge said in his testimony.

The budget also includes $2.3 million over two years for the commission to rent its office space in the William Green Building in Columbus. It also includes nearly $7.6 million over the biennium for the state’s attorney general to represent the commission in cases.

State lawmakers are currently putting the finishing touches on a state budget that includes more than $69 billion in GRF spending. All in, lawmakers are considering a more than $140 billion two-year budget.

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