Taxpayer Group Calls Congressional Agency's Latest Analysis on Proposed Asbestos Fund a "Shot in the Dark"For Immediate Release December 20, 2005
(Alexandria, VA) - Hot on the heels of a Congressional Budget Office (CBO) study purporting to offer more information on taxpayer costs and liabilities of proposed Senate legislation to resolve asbestos claims, the 350,000-member National Taxpayers Union (NTU) today cautioned that there's less than meets the eye to CBO's analysis. NTU Policy Analyst Jeff Dircksen, who recently authored an exhaustive study on S. 852, the Fairness in Asbestos Injury Resolution (FAIR) Act, offered the following comments:
Far from clarifying the fiscal risks of S. 852, the Congressional Budget Office seems to have concluded that the only certain thing about the FAIR Act's costs is uncertainty itself. On the one hand, CBO claims there is 'some likelihood' that the proposed federally-administered asbestos fund would have sufficient revenues to pay claims, but on the other hand a 'significant likelihood' that the fund won't be solvent. The report also notes 'a number of features that could add to the cost of the legislation,' including dormant claims, family members' claims, and allowing additional medical procedures to confirm exposure. No wonder CBO stated that, 'The final outcome cannot be predicted with great certainty.'
Just last month, another Congressional research agency, the Government Accountability Office, studied four existing federal programs whose elements bear a resemblance to the provisions in the asbestos legislation. This report warned that 'the federal role in all four programs has expanded significantly over time' and that 'policymakers must carefully consider the cost and precedent-setting implications of establishing any new federal compensation programs ...'
If Majority Leader Frist is serious about passing effective asbestos legislation early next year, then he should call upon Senators to scrap the FAIR Act. The only way for Congress to achieve the 'great certainty' that eluded CBO is to start over with a bill to establish better medical criteria, punitive damage limits, and extended filing deadlines.
NTU was founded in 1969 to work for lower taxes, smaller government, and economic freedom at all levels. Note: NTU Policy Paper 118, Gordian Knot: How the Senate's Asbestos "Reform" Bill Entangles Taxpayers, is available online at www.ntu.org. -30-