Gov. Rauner Talks Work Comp Reform For IL, Part II

Liz Carey

Springfield, IL (WorkersCompensation.com) – Gov. Bruce Rauner is calling for members of both parties in the Illinois legislature to come together over workers’ compensation reform this year.

In his State of the State address at the end of January, Gov. Rauner said he would present the legislature with a balanced budget in February, and stressed the need for lawmakers to come together over tax reform, workers’ compensation changes and public pension reforms.

Gov. Rauner has made workers’ compensation reform part of his legislative agenda since he was elected in 2015. Last year, Illinois teetered close to the edge of bankruptcy, as Gov. Rauner and leading democrat, Speaker of the House Mike Madigan, held up passing a budget over workers’ compensation reform negotiations.

This year, Gov. Rauner said business reforms in the state were imperative if the state has any chance of attracting Amazon, and its HQ2, promising more than 168,000 jobs, to the state.

“It’s time to do what the people of Illinois want. Halt the advance of taxes. Stop spending money we don’t have. Get our pensions under control. And give power back to the people,” Gov. Rauner said in his address. “The surest road to economic vitality and job growth is a collaborative effort to regain our financial integrity.”

Gov. Rauner cited workers’ compensation costs as one of the biggest concerns for small businesses, and one of the biggest obstacles to job growth. Illinois has some of the highest premiums in the country, with $2.23 per every $100 of payroll.

“We’re at the beginning of a new legislative session,” Rachel Bold, spokeswoman for Gov. Rauner’s office, told WorkersCompensation.com. “We look forward to working together with like-minded legislators on reforms to lower workers’ compensation costs for Illinois employers and make Illinois’ jobs climate competitive.”

Illinois Lt. Governor Evelyn Sanguinetti said, in an article in the Herald Whig, workers’ compensation costs are what drives businesses to other states. In neighboring Indiana, workers’ compensation is $1.05 per $100 of payroll, while in Iowa, it’s $1.86 and $1.92 in Missouri.

Sen. Chapin Rose (R-Mahomet), said he was glad to see Gov. Rauner mention workers’ compensation in his address.

“When you talk to employers and businesses, it seems that the two biggest stumbling blocks for Illinois in terms of job creation are workers’ comp costs and property tax costs,” Rose told the News Gazette. “Maybe there will be some opportunity there to do something on that.”

Steve Brown, spokesperson for Rep. Maddigan, told WorkersCompensation.com that the governor offered no specifics, but that Maddigan would likely propose similar legislation that was offered last year.

“I know last year, we offered up a couple of different compromises that looked at the insurance industry,… but Rauner vetoed those bills,” Brown said. “We’ve looked at lowering doctor payments, we’ve looked at it from the worker side. That should have dropped the prices significantly, but it didn’t. (The insurance companies) haven’t passed along those savings to the employers and have only added to their profits.”