Workers’ Comp Reform Left Out Of Illinois Budget, Concerning Businesses

Putting a halt on legislative back-and-forth, Illinois lawmakers have voted to approve a new state budget. But some critics point out that the plan has ignored workers’ compensation reform. The Chicago Tribune reports that the vote was instated to override Gov. Bruce Rauner’s veto on the budget.

In 2013 alone, there were 917,100 occupational injuries that resulted in an average of eight days missed work per person. This makes workers’ compensation an ever-present part of state legislation — though it may be taking a back seat in Illinois.

According to Chicago Tribune, the final budget came out to $36.1 billion and increased the corporate income tax to 7% and the personal rate to 4.95%. Toff Maisch, CEO of the Illinois Chamber of Commerce, told Chicago Tribune that it’s problematic for the budget to skip over rising property taxes and increased workers’ compensation insurance costs.

“The fact that there are no reforms at all is an incredible missed opportunity,” he said.

Robert Reed echoed this thought in his recent Chicago Tribune column, stating that this decision undermines a long-standing battle for better workers’ compensation policies in Illinois.

“The business withdrawal is another lost opportunity to sensibly revamp this complex, publicly backed structure that needs to bring costs down while still properly serving those who are legitimately injured on the job,” he said. “While workers’ compensation changes never come easy in the Illinois General Assembly, there was hope earlier this year that pro-business Republicans and pro-labor Democrats would lay the groundwork for bipartisan compromise.”

According to Chicago Tribune, Gov. Rauner is a supporter of workers’ comp rights and other business policies, making him a favorable candidate for CEOs and small business owners. While the budget did not include new workers’ compensation provisions, Chicago Tribune reports that two workers’ comp bills passed the General Assembly this legislative session. One of the bills designates $10 million for a government-funded insurance company to compete with private insurance companies. The bills are moving on to Gov. Rauner.

However, business interest groups say these bills don’t go far enough in reducing insurance costs for business owners. When someone is injured driving a company car, for example, their company can face steep costs. The three most common causes of car accidents are distracted driving, drunk driving, and speeding, carrying great risk for any commercial driver — and potentially a great financial burden.

As for a solution going forward, Reed suggests a more realist approach.

“Illinois should not have to gut workers’ rights to remain competitive with neighboring Indiana or other Midwest states,” he writes. “At the same time, realistic safeguards against negligent employers and systemic abuse, along with more checks and balances on who gets workers’ compensation, and for how long, are instrumental to the state’s economic health.”