In his ongoing efforts to reform state government in Wisconsin and get costs under control, Gov. Scott Walker has proposed eliminating an independent review board that handles workers' compensation cases.
Defunding of Wisconsin's Labor and Industry Review Commission is projected to save $3 million as part of a $600 million package of tax and fee cuts Walker has proposed in a two-year budget plan.
Illinois workers' comp attorney Eugene Keefe of Keefe, Campbell, Biery and Associates thinks Walker's streamlining idea is a good one and should be adapted to our state.
“Scott Walker is a genius in my opinion,” Keefe says. “He has cut annual spending by like $5 billion a year. In Illinois, we’ve gone the other way. The problem we have in Illinois is we have too much government.”
Keefe points out that workers’ compensation claims go through five levels of hearings and appeals in Illinois. “All of those processes cost Illinois taxpayers a lot of money,” he laments.
Even though the number of claims has dropped dramatically over the last few years, the size of the Illinois Workers’ Compensation Commission has grown (to 10 members), and so has the cost of maintaining it.
But the bucks don't stop there. Four other public bodies need to be put on a diet, consolidated, or eliminated: the Commission Review Board, the Self-Insurers Advisory Board, the Workers’ Compensation Advisory Board, and the Workers’ Compensation Medical Fee Advisory Board.
When Gov. Bruce Rauner first introduced his Turnaround Agenda, he cited our status as a state with one of the highest workers' compensation costs and proposed legislation to reduce those costs, in part by raising the causation standard so that a work-related accident would have to be “more than 50-percent responsible for the injury” to be compensated.
With claims going down and likely to drop further with Rauner's reforms, we have to ask: How many boards do we need to oversee this process?