Colorado House panel approves takeover of insurer |

Colorado House panel approves takeover of insurer

Steven K. Paulson
The Associated Press
Aspen, CO Colorado

DENVER ” A House committee gave its approval to a bill to take over a state-created workers compensation insurance company to balance next year’s budget.

Lawmakers are hoping to use some of Pinnacol Assurance’s reserves to avoid huge cuts in higher education.

The Legislature is searching for dollars amid a big drop in tax revenues because of the recession.

The bill approved Tuesday by the House Appropriations Committee changes the structure of Pinnacol and takes control of its money away from its board.

Rep. Paul Weissmann, D-Louisville, who sponsored the bill, said he wanted to make it clear the state has the same control over the insurance company that it had in 1991, before legislation was introduced that gave the company more power over regulation and finances. He said he opposes any negotiations with the company over who has control.

“Let me make it very clear. I have no interest in a deal,” Weissmann said.

Former state Rep. Mark Larson, who also is a former Pinnacol board member, said the company is being punished for balancing its books and the company would sue to protect its members.

“You’re not going to see that money,” Larson told the committee.

Rep. Don Marostica, R-Loveland, questioned the high salaries and bonuses paid to Pinnacol executives, and the company’s decision to build a new $25 million headquarters.

“They’ve been taking your money,” Marostica told Tony Gagliardi, Colorado director of the National Federation of Independent Business representing 7,500 small businesses across the state.

Gagliardi said he didn’t believe businesses were being cheated.

According to a report filed by Pinnacol with the state Division of Insurance, Chief Executive Officer Kenneth Ross was paid $297,500 and given a bonus of $131,545, for total compensation of about $450,000 last year. Six vice presidents received bonuses ranging from $28,000 to $190,000.

Lawmakers will consider a separate bill that would take $500 million from Pinnacol’s surplus to reverse cuts to higher education.

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