The state improperly charged Connecticut insurance companies and small businesses $450,000 last fiscal year to recoup a legislative raid on the Workers’ Compensation Administration Fund, the state auditors reported Tuesday.

But in a written response to auditors John C. Geragosian and Robert M. Ward, the Workers’ Compensation Commission insisted the assessment was necessary to ensure it had enough cash to run its operations.

Each year the commission assesses self-insured employers and companies writing workers’ compensation insurance to cover the costs of running both the workers’ compensation system and the Department of Rehabilitative Services, which helps injured workers.

The General Assembly and Gov. Dannel P. Malloy took $450,000 from the workers’ compensation fund in December 2012 as part of an omnibus package of spending cuts and fund raids to help close a roughly $250 million, mid-fiscal-year shortfall in the general fund.

In response, the commission built that $450,000 into its expenses – and thus its related assessment – for the 2013-14 fiscal year, Geragosian and Ward wrote.

“A fund balance transfer of that nature would not normally be regarded as a direct or indirect operating expense,” the auditors added. “Insurers appear to have been assessed at a slightly higher rate than the amount considered sufficient to meet budgeted operating expenses.”

Commission Chairman John A. Mastropietro could not be reached for comment Tuesday morning. But in the commission’s written response to the auditors, it said the $450,000  was needed “to ensure there will be sufficient funds to meet the cash flow needs of the agency for the first six months” of the 2013-14 fiscal year.

Keith has spent most of his 31 years as a reporter specializing in state government finances, analyzing such topics as income tax equity, waste in government and the complex funding systems behind Connecticut’s transportation and social services networks. He has been the state finances reporter at CT Mirror since it launched in 2010. Prior to joining CT Mirror Keith was State Capitol bureau chief for The Journal Inquirer of Manchester, a reporter for the Day of New London, and a former contributing writer to The New York Times. Keith is a graduate of and a former journalism instructor at the University of Connecticut.

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