Time to pass lawsuit reforms and reduce job loss in Illinois

Travis Akin Sep. 1, 2011, 10:50am


July was a brutal month for the state of Illinois as the unemployment rate jumped from 9.1 percent in June to a whopping 9.5 percent in July.

The jobs report for July revealed that the state lost 24,900 jobs – more than any other state. Some of these jobs may not be coming back at any point in the future. Just recently, the Blue Island, Ill.-based Modern Drop Forge Company, announced it is moving to Merrillville, Indiana. The announcement means about 240 jobs will be moved to Indiana. The reason the company is leaving is because of the poor business climate in Illinois.

A spokesman for the Illinois Department of Employment Security said the department is trying to find out why Illinois is bleeding jobs.

But the answer to this question really is not all that complicated. The simple answer is the overall business climate in Illinois is hostile to job growth and job creation. The combination of high taxes, out-of-control state spending and the lack of legal reform has made Illinois one of the worst states to locate a business.

Illinois increased taxes by 66 percent in January and the state has done little to provide incentives such as lawsuit reform that help improve the business climate. Illinois has the fifth-highest corporate income tax in the country. The combination of high taxes, out-of-control spending and lack of lawsuit reform has created the perfect storm for job loss.

According to a recent report from the respected Harris polling company, Illinois is ranked the sixth-worst state for legal fairness. Companies look to do business in states where the litigation climate is fair. Why would a company move to a state with such a poor legal climate as Illinois?

The answer is they don't.

Legal reform is not a magic bullet that can cure the state's ailing economy, but it should at least be part of the conversation. Neighboring states such as Wisconsin have approved significant legal reforms as a means of attracting new jobs and opportunities. Lawmakers in Wisconsin made lawsuit reform a priority because they wanted to create a better climate for job growth.

Illinois lost more jobs than any other state last month. We cannot continue to ignore the economic realities in Illinois. If we want more jobs and opportunities in Illinois, then we need to create a climate conducive to job growth. One simple way to do this would be to enact meaningful legal reforms.

The legislative leaders controlling the process in Springfield continue to ignore repeated calls for reform. When the legislative session ended last spring, lawmakers once again left town without even having the opportunity to vote on lawsuit reforms such as a measure setting more reasonable guidelines for where a civil lawsuit can be filed, or legislation establishing better criteria for what constitutes an "expert witness" in civil cases.

The state of Illinois cannot afford to keep shedding jobs. It is time for Illinois residents to take a stand on this important issue and demand accountability from the legislative leaders controlling the process in Springfield. Clearly the status quo is not working.

It is time we all stood together and demand our lawmakers take the right steps toward improving the state's business climate. It is time Illinois follow the lead of states such as Wisconsin and pass meaningful lawsuit reforms.

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