Governor Bruce Rauner’s comments on workers' compensation reform made during his state of the state address has prompted mixed reaction.
In his Jan. 27 address, the Governor cited workers’ compensation as one of many issues facing the Illinois business community along with labor regulations, liability costs, and property taxes.
“The cost of workers' comp is the biggest factor driving our job losses,” he said. “If we simply aligned our workers’ comp costs with those of a state like Massachusetts – which is hardly a bastion of conservatism – we can save state and local taxpayers over $300 million per year, while protecting those who suffer workplace injuries, and grow more careers at higher wages.”
Rauner criticized reform legislation sponsored by House Democrats, saying their proposal "ignores the most important reforms we need for our workers’ compensation system, and in another instance, could actually undermine previous reform efforts.”
The bill in question modified the Workers’ Compensation Act and employer's liability rates outlined in the Illinois Insurance Code. It includes safety programs, return to work programs, a recalculation of premiums, and a waiver of the self-insurers fee.
Eugene Keefe, partner at Keefe, Campbell, Biery and Associates in Chicago, said he believes there are other issues that may have a bigger impact on getting the state's fiscal problems under control, such as consolidating government agencies and improving technology.
“I was hoping Governor Rauner being a great executive, a private sector executive, would come in and try to automate things and trim down,” Keefe said. “But workers comp to me is a very minor issues compared to those major issues.”
The Illinois Trial Lawyers Association was more critical of Rauner's remarks on work comp reform, stating in a press release: “Gov. Rauner should abandon his campaign to enlist our legal system into the exclusive service of his phenomenally wealthy supporters, and instead focus on real, meaningful solutions to fix our state’s problems.”
For now, an eight month old budget impasse continues and the impact that workers’ compensation reform might have on the budget remains to be seen.