The state of the State of Illinois is bleak. The combination of high taxes, over regulation and lawsuit abuse have created an exodus of jobs and opportunities from the Land of Lincoln to other states with a more friendly business climate.
Governor Bruce Rauner wants to change course and make Illinois a destination for jobs and opportunities. The Governor rightly made lawsuit a priority in his State of the State address because we definitely need to hit the reset button here in Illinois. We cannot afford to continue to shed jobs and opportunities while at the same time attracting more abusive lawsuits.
The truth is our courts are being clogged with junk lawsuits from all across the country while moving vans are taking Illinois residents and Illinois jobs to other parts of the country. Illinois ranks 46th out of 50 states for legal fairness according to a recent survey from the respected Harris polling company and is home to Madison County, the nation’s fifth-worst “Judicial Hellhole,” according to a recent report from the American Tort Reform Foundation.
As I travel around the state, I hear from small business owners who have either made plans or are thinking about making plans to move to states such as Iowa and Wisconsin where these small businesses are far less likely to be sued. It’s no surprise to learn the Land of Lincoln led the nation in outbound moves in 2014, according to Allied Van Lines.
The end result of Illinois’ status as the “Lawsuit Abuse Capital of the Midwest” is loss of jobs and loss of opportunities. Illinois ranked dead last in the Midwest for new payroll jobs added to the economy in 2014 while Iowa ranked 14th and Wisconsin 20th, according to data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
What Illinois needs is not more of the same. What Illinois needs is more jobs, not more lawsuits. Our neighbors in Wisconsin and Iowa have made lawsuit reform a priority while lawmakers in Illinois have consistently ignored the state’s lawsuit abuse problem.
If we want to turn Illinois’ economy around, we need to send a clear message that we are serious about job growth and job creation. One simple way to do this would be for lawmakers to follow the lead of other Midwest states and finally make legal reform a priority.
The reality is companies look to locate or expand their businesses in states where the judicial system is fair. Our economy will continue to flounder as long as the Legislature fails to act on important judicial reforms. Lawsuit reform will not cost the state any money. Instead of passing legislation to create more lawsuits, lawmakers need to focus on implementing court reforms that will help create jobs and jumpstart the Illinois economy. A report from the Rauner administration points out that lawsuit reforms could save businesses $2.4 billion and create up to 147,000 new jobs.
Lawmakers are looking at a budget shortfall of at least $5 billion. Illinois needs to change course and enact meaningful lawsuit reforms sooner rather than later. It is time for our legislators to stand up to the personal injury lawyers and start working to pass common sense lawsuit reforms that will help create badly-needed jobs in Illinois.
Travis Akin is Executive Director of Illinois Lawsuit Abuse Watch.