Every January, it seems lawmakers return to Springfield with the same financial issues hanging over their heads as the year before, and every year they employ the same budget gimmicks and essentially "kick the can down the road," as the saying goes, on the important issues of the day.
And certainly this year was no exception.
Instead of taking steps to improve Illinois' economy, lawmakers keep borrowing, taxing and spending. The best solution state leaders have put forward to create jobs is the ongoing effort to bring terrorist prisoners to Illinois. I am sorry but housing terrorists in an Illinois prison can't actually be considered an economic development plan.
If we want to solve the state's budget problems, we have to improve Illinois' ailing economy, and the way we do this is to create an environment conducive to job growth. Of course, it is difficult to create jobs when the state is plagued by high taxes, political corruption and a culture of lawsuit abuse.
The culture of political corruption will take time to change and it is unlikely we will see lawmakers lower taxes with such a large budget deficit looming, but the one thing lawmakers can do at any time is address the state's reputation as a magnet for lawsuits.
The Pacific Research Institute just released a study of the nation's litigation system and ranked Illinois 47th out of 50 states for the cost of litigation and 46th out of 50 states for tort law. According to the same report, job growth was 57 percent greater in the top 10 states for legal fairness compared to the states in the bottom 10 for legal fairness.
Companies look to do business in states where the litigation climate is fair. The current unemployment rate of 11.2 percent in Illinois is nearly two points higher than the national average and higher than all of the surrounding states except Michigan.
Lawsuit reform is not a magic bullet, but when the state's economy is in shambles shouldn't state lawmakers do something – anything – to show a commitment to job growth and job creation?
As with so many other issues, lawmakers have once again left Springfield without addressing vital legal reforms. They left on the table such ideas as setting reasonable guidelines for where a civil lawsuit can be filed, establishing better criteria for what constitutes an "expert witness" or preventing trial lawyers from exploiting the state's civil conspiracy laws to unfairly target businesses or individuals with only tangential connections to an alleged offender.
In short, lawmakers decided to "kick the can down the road" on lawsuit reform. We need to all do our homework and find out where the candidates on the ballot in 2010 stand on the issue of legal reform. Come November, let's show these can kickers how serious we the people are about the problems facing our state.