Synopsis: The Biggest News in Illinois Workers’ Comp History No One is Reporting—I Assure You The IL Workers’ Comp Commission Is Set To Close Thirty Days From Today!
Editor’s comment: I had a reader tell me Illinois State Government appears to be filling in for the Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus that is soon to close. Everything that is happening in our state government appears to make our leaders look like clowns and teetering out of control. The problem with seeing legislative clowns is the lack of any humor when billions of our tax dollars are at stake. In short, the “grand bargain” for an actual IL state budget appears to have fallen to the wayside as the battle between Governor Rauner and Speaker Madigan accelerates wildly.
Last week, Speaker Madigan’s daughter, IL Attorney General Lisa Madigan filed a request in St. Clair County Circuit Court, to stop paying all Illinois state workers' salaries until legislators and Gov. Bruce Rauner work out a spending plan to end an 18-month budget impasse. The motion asks the St. Clair County Circuit Court to dissolve by Feb. 28, 2017 a preliminary injunction that has allowed state workers to be paid even though the Legislature and governor haven't approved a spending plan. A six-month "stopgap" state budget was approved last summer but expired on Jan. 1, 2017.
Attorney General Madigan's surprise legal motion was criticized both by government employee unions and other state officials. I feel it is an exercise in brinkmanship (brinkwomanship?) to force an unhappy budget truce. Please also note the screaming you can’t hear are the holders of over $11 billion, yes, billion in unpaid bills owed by our crazy State government—the amount of unpaid state gov’t bills is going up by millions upon millions each day.
Governor Rauner said he was "deeply disappointed, very upset" by Madigan's move. "I hope this is not a direct attempt to cause a crisis to force a shutdown of the government to force another stopgap spending plan — short-term, unbalanced, incomplete — as a step to force a tax hike without any changes to our broken system," the Governor said in Chicago.
Unless things change dramatically, it is my current assumption Attorney General Madigan will win her motion and the preliminary injunction will be dissolved. Following that ruling, all IL government salaries and other monies paid to IL State workers will end on February 28, 2017. After that date, I further assume the IL WC Arbitrators, Commissioners, Chairperson and support staff won’t volunteer their services but will stay home or away from work until the impasse is resolved. In short, the IWCC and lots of other state agencies and services will close until a budget deal is struck. Could it happen? Youbetcha.
What Happens Then? Can We Survive Without WC Hearing Officers?
It will be interesting to see what happens but an IWCC shutdown may certainly happen. The main crisis would be termination of medical and/or lost time benefits for seriously injured workers—there would be no place for such folks to go. Even Medicaid might shut down in a total government collapse. We assume the IL WC claims community isn’t going to do silly stuff because at some time, the IWCC will return to action and get back into the swing to punish defense wrong-doers.
What Is Happening With the Pending 2017 IL WC Reforms?
From my last web search, literally all sides appear more and more tired of the new WC “reform” concepts and seemed to be either losing interest or actively discarding them. Some of the WC reforms have promise but all of it seems to be rapidly cobbled together without strong metrics to support them. We assure our readers some of them are hilariously nebulous and when there is unclear WC legislation, that is never good for the defense side of the matrix because our “activist” courts will make us pay for any uncertainty.
Whether anything of the many proposed IL WC reforms will survive and be passed into law is yet to be seen—watch this space. With what is at stake in a government shutdown, my vote is back out of the few reforms of value and take the time needed to come up with “hard” reforms that will make the system operate more effectively for IL business and local governments. I am happy to quietly help, if asked.
Will The State of Illinois Ever Dig Out of the Massive Financial Hole Created by Our Legislative Leaders?
The “Grand Bargain” currently being proposed includes
· At least $7 billion in new state borrowing for a state awash in spiraling debt and
· State income tax being dramatically raised to record levels for individuals and corporations and
· The stupidest tax on moderate and small businesses I have ever heard of. Some PR guy gave this proposed tax the silly name “Business Opportunity Tax.” Our legislative leaders want to raise $750M to tax payroll and 1099 payments for businesses working in Illinois. If it passes, every incentive will be to move jobs and business out of this state even faster than is already happening. In my view, the only “opportunity” that will almost certainly come from such a tax is to have businesses jump on this “opportunity” to get out of this state and bring jobs and work elsewhere.
· Lots of other unpalatable things that will infuriate you and me, as taxpayers.
What this bargain doesn’t include are any budget cuts or government efficiencies or basically anything to get us out of the giant financial mess in the years and decades to come. If you don’t change what caused these new and higher taxes and borrowing, you are going to need more taxes and borrowing until something snaps. I feel they are simply patching up the financial mess they caused with literally no long-term relief in sight. All I see the legislature doing is fighting Governor Rauner and digging deeper and deeper into an anti-business and anti-local government financial abyss. Lots of folks and businesses are fleeing with fewer and fewer new Illinois jobs being created—does anyone in the General Assembly care?
I suggest we all diary February 28, 2017 to watch and see if they can come up with a plan that will keep the IL WC Commission open and our circus-like state government afloat.
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The foregoing was originally published on the Keefe, Campbell, Beiry Blog and is reproduced here with permission of the author. No further republication is permitted without the author’s consent.
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