A state representative questions the results of a state audit that claims the Second Injury Fund will go bankrupt next year and suggests the fund is no longer needed.

Rep. Steve Hunter (R-Joplin) chairs the House Workforce Development Committee. Hunter says State Auditor Susan Montee failed to consider the sharp increase in awards from the fund and focused only on business contributions to it. Hunter also notes Montee’s husband represents workers seeking payments from the fund. He claims that should be considered a conflict-of-interest and she should have stepped aside and allowed an independent firm to audit the fund.

Hunter says an investigation is needed to discover why payments from the fund have risen from $24 million in 2000 to $64 million last year. Hunter has asked House Speaker Rod Jetton (R-Marble Hill) to authorize an investigation. The Speaker has subpoena powers.

The Second Injury Fund provides benefits for workers who suffer a workplace injury who had entered the workforce with a previous injury or disability. Hunter says the fund is no longer needed, because the Americans with Disabilities Act protects disabled workers. He says other claims that could be filed with the Second Injury Fund can be funneled through the regular Workers Compensation system.

Montee, a Democrat, has heard the criticism from Republicans. She says that’s fine if they want to criticize her, but the pending shortfall in the Second Injury Fund must be addressed. Montee predicts a shortfall by as much as $57 million dollars next year. She says Republican lawmakers were warned by House staff workers about the problem when they addressed the Second Injury Fund in 2005. Montee rejects claims she has a conflict-of-interest. She says she has nothing to do with her husband’s law practice.

Download/listen Brent Martin reports (:60 MP3)