Perspective for July 20th

Observations and comments about state government by State Representative Robert W. Pritchard.
District Office 815-748-3494 or E-Mail to

July 20, 2015
In This Issue:
  Ø  Hope To See You This Week
  Ø  Workers Compensation Report
  Ø  Temporary Budget Push Continues
  Ø  Whole House Discusses Budget Process
  Ø  State Has Another Symbol

Hope To See You This Week
Don’t forget two information-filled events this week.  On Thursday July 23 Senator Syverson and I will be hosting a health fair for seniors and their care givers.  We’ll have over 70 providers of services for the elderly to help them live more enjoyable lives.  Admission is free and so are the health screenings and refreshments.  It’s from 9 a.m.-12 p.m. at the DeKalb High School, 501 W Dresser Rd.

My second coffee and conversation is this Saturday July 25 with fellow Kane County Representative Keith Wheeler.  We’ll discuss current issues in Springfield, provide background and answer your questions.  The coffee will be ready at 10 a.m. at the Campton Township Community Center, 5N082 Old LaFox Road, Campton Hills.  If you have questions about these events, call Jesse in my office.

Worker’s Compensation Report
In a recent letter published in the Illinois Chamber of Commerce Magazine, Chamber CEO Todd Maisch, explained that the worker’s compensation system has bloated beyond its original goal of helping legitimately injured workers with their medical bills and other payments.  As a result, the cost of the program has become another reason many businesses are leaving our state.

Maisch said our Worker Compensation System covers injuries not caused at the workplace with compensation levels that have become artificially inflated.  Employers, large and small, spend a total of $3 billion dollars a year on worker’s compensation in Illinois.

Last Wednesday the House Labor and Commerce Committee held a hearing on a recent report from the Worker’s Compensation Commission about the effects of system reforms in 2011.  The report stated that improvements and cost savings have occurred since 2011; however, the chairman of the commission, Joann Fratianni, explained that further improvements to the workers compensation system in Illinois are still necessary.

Illinois has moved from the 3rd most costly workers compensation system in the country to the 7th, but proponents of Governor Rauner’s reforms claim that those merely touched the surface of much larger structural problems that went unaddressed in the last reforms.  

Opponents to worker’s comp reform say that the only reason why more substantial savings were not seen as a result of the 2011 reforms was because the insurance industry is keeping a larger share of the profits.  That argument seems unrealistic since Illinois has one of the largest and most competitive insurance markets in the country.  With over 300 companies competing for business one would expect considerable price competition.  

In the past two weeks at least four large manufacturing companies have announced their plans to close plants and relocate outside of Illinois due to the business climate in our state.  General Mills announced it is closing its West Chicago plant and taking 500 jobs with it; all told the job losses from the four companies will total around 1,300.  

Governor Rauner is attempting to make our business climate more competitive with other states through his five point turnaround agenda which includes worker injury compensation reforms.  Among the changes he would like to see are the creation of a workers' compensation public advocate who could assist injured workers, improvements in billing and computer support, reliance on AMA permanent injury guidelines and a more accurate reflection of the party that caused the injury.

Temporary Budget Push Continues
Rather than engage in a discussion about a full-year budget, the Speaker of the House continues to push for one-month spending authorization.  One bill covering what the Speaker considers tier one services is on the Governor’s desk while a second bill covering tier two services failed on a vote in the House.  Both bills base the one-month spending on a full-year amount that is nearly $4 billion more than revenue.

As the State of Illinois enters its fourth week of the new fiscal year, there are no signs the Speaker is willing to negotiate with the Governor over his demands for reforms that will make Illinois more competitive, create jobs, and limit spending to no more than available revenue. 

Whole House Discusses Budget Process
The House held another Committee of the Whole last week with the topic this time being the budget reductions to five more program areas.  I imagine the purpose of the nearly three hour exercise was to point out the witnesses’ experiences with the programs.  The testimony certainly didn’t add any new information to what had already been discussed in various committees.

What was new, however, was an admission by Majority Leader Representative Currie that people crafting the Legislative budget did not determine how much revenue the state would take in before they developed their spending plans.  Despite a constitution requirement, Illinois hasn’t had a truly balanced budget since 2001.  As a result, Illinois has had its credit ratings and reputation squandered, and built a considerable debt.

In 1991, Illinois faced a similar budget standoff with Governor Jim Edgar and, again, Speaker Madigan.  At that time the budget faced a shortfall of almost half of what it is this year.  A budget was finally passed three weeks in to July back then because both sides compromised.  The Speaker, 24 years later and with Illinois in even worse financial shape, has been unwilling to budge this time.

State Has Another Symbol
Just in time for eating, sweet corn has been named the official state vegetable.  SB800 was signed into law last week by the Governor after a strong lobbying effort by 4th graders at the Chatham Elementary School.  Now maybe “mom” can get the kids to eat their vegetables at meals.

Illinois' new state vegetable joins 19 other state symbols such as the state animal (white-tailed deer), state flower (violet), state insect (monarch butterfly) and state soil (drummer).  I have a coloring book of symbols if you would like one for your “little ones.”

I look forward to seeing you at one of our events this week.