Friday, April 29, 2016

Bob Walberg: My View: Workers' compensation costs make Illinois less competitive

  • Bob Walberg
    Bob Walberg

  • By Bob Walberg
    Boone County Board chairman

    Posted Apr 28, 2016 at 2:00 PM
    Updated Apr 28, 2016 at 4:24 PM

    Imagine a race where your competition gets an automatic “head start” on your team. I’m not sure how you ever catch up. That is what it’s like to do business in Illinois with such oppressive workers’ compensation insurance costs.
    Don’t misunderstand me — workers hurt on the job deserve compensation. However, how can we expect to remain competitive with our neighboring states when our costs, premiums and settlements are off the charts compared with them? When it comes to attracting new jobs, new business and keeping ones we have in Illinois and Boone County, we are losing regionally, nationally and globally. It’s not because of our location or our people. We are losing because of our high cost of doing business.
    Illinois has the seventh-highest workers’ compensation rates in the U.S. State and local governments combined pay close to $900 million annually. This is unacceptable.
    Illinois has so many advantages: we have the best location, the best workforce, world-class research institutions and an excellent transportation network. Boone County is positioned between Chicago and Madison, Wisconsin, along the I-90 “Power Corridor,” however our oppressive workers’ compensation costs place an unfair burden on our governments and local businesses.
    Illinois will continue to operate at a disadvantage when compared with our neighbors. Plain and simple: Our workers’ compensation laws drive business out of Illinois. It’s time to change these oppressive laws.
    The rules in Illinois are so broad and the threshold so low that employers assume risk for injuries that most of us would consider being outside the course of work. For example, we punish employers for injuries sustained on a lunch break. Or worse, employers can be responsible for an injury that originated outside the workplace.
    Let’s be clear: Workers’ compensation is important to protecting employees injured on the job, and that should continue. However, we should not be holding employers accountable and paying on injuries that occurred outside a factory, office or workplace. That isn’t fair policy.
    Reforming our workers’ compensation laws will make Illinois more business-friendly and provide more resources to create jobs and pay higher wages. Not only would reforming our workers’ compensation laws save taxpayer dollars and help control the cost of local government, it would attract more business to Boone County and Illinois — a win for all of us.
    Don’t keep us forever behind in the race. Would you join me in supporting proposals to modernize and make Illinois’ workers’ compensation laws more competitive?
    Bob Walberg is chairman of the Boone County Board.

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