SPRINGFIELD – As Illinois Gov. Bruce Rauner urged lawmakers on Wednesday to reach a budget deal that includes cost-saving system reforms as well as new taxes, a legal reform advocate said there also needs to be tort reform.
"The governor remains committed to lawsuit reform," Illinois Lawsuit Abuse Watch director Travis Akin said during an email interview. "Some of the structural reforms to government, such as term limits, seem to be more front-and-center at this moment in time. But lawsuit reforms such as venue reform are needed in Illinois."
States such as Wisconsin, Indiana and, most recently, Missouri have made lawsuit reform a priority, Akin said.
"Those states are seeing an increase in economic growth and productivity," he said. "Illinois has so much to offer prospective businesses, but the anti-business climate here is driving people away. We have to change that and it is something we can do if we got serious about enacting the kinds of reforms we need. The blueprint is there. We just need legislative leaders willing to follow the lead of surrounding states by making lawsuit reform a priority."
The so-called "grand bargain" compromise budget deal, hammered out last month by Senate President John Cullerton (D-Chicago) and Senate Republican Leader Christine Radogno (R-Lemont), isn't the only budgetary recommendation in Springfield. Another plan, which would impose no taxes but would impose many fiscal reforms, has been floated about in Springfield.
That plan has gained little traction in the Democratically controlled General Assemby, but the ideas behind it seem to be getting some attention.
When Rauner, a Republican, was appealing to lawmakers during his annual budget address, he urged them to develop a deal that would include reforms along with tax increases annual budget address.
"First and foremost, the final result must be a good deal for taxpayers and job creators, a grand bargain that fully balances the budget once and for all, and really moves the needle when it comes to job creation," Rauner said during his address, which was streamed over Facebook.
Akin said he thinks the idea of a grand compromise is the only way to get out of the state’s budget crisis but that it doesn't go far enough.
"The problem with the so-called 'grand bargain' is that it is in many ways more of the same," he said. "Illinois has raised taxes before and the only thing that happened was the state spent more money."
The state needs to look for ways to reduce spending and to improve the Illinois economy, Akin said.
"Right now, Illinois has one of the highest unemployment rates in the nation," he said. "Any kind of grand bargain needs to have essential economic reforms such as lawsuit reform if we expect to get out of this mess. Creating more jobs will generate more revenue for the state. Anything short of that is only going to be more of the same."