The Missouri Senate has started working on increasing taxes on businesses to pay obligations of the state program that compensates employees who suffer a second major injury on the job. Governor Nixon will be watching the efforts.

The precarious position of the Second Injury Fund was set up in 2005 when the legislature voted to limit the taxes that business would pay to support it. The result is a fund with tens of thousands of claims it cannot pay, about $1 billion in liabilities with almost no money to pay them, and a lawsuit working its way through the courts that could bring a judgment state lawmakers don’t want to face.

The senate has started debating an increase in taxes on employers to raise the money to pay the obligations. Gov. Jay Nixon sees a couple of choices, assuming the fund continues — paying current obligations, or  narrowing the definition of permanent partial disability.

“You still have to deal financially with the obligations that have been accrued  but not yet paid,” he says. He calls the Senate’s early debate “a very good sign.”

The Senate is proposing a doubling of the tax on businesses to make the fund solvent again. But even at the highest rate proposed, sponsor say the fund won’t have enough money to meet demands until 2020 or later.  More debate is coming today.

In other topics during his news conference, Nixon announced the release of almost nine million dollars in funds withheld last summer from the budgets for higher education for services to children in foster care.

Nixon was noncommittal on whether the state should put up more money to help finance renovations to the domed stadium in St. Louis where the St. Louis Rams play or to help build a new stadium.  The Rams are free to leave after the 2015 season is St. Louis does not provide the team with a stadium that is one of the top 25 football facilities in the NFL.  Nixon says Missouri needs to retain its two NFL teams and remain a “major league state.”  But he said a lot of negotiation is still ahead in St. Louis.

The state is obligated to pay $12 million a year on the bonds issued to build the dome until 2025.

AUDIO: Nixon news conference (25:15)