Winger works to connect workers comp' reform to agencies tied to Chicago sports venues, city tourism
Rep. Christine Winger (R-Wood Dale) pitched workers' compensation reform as a potential benefit to state-created entities in Chicago, one tied to sports venues and the other to tourism and trade shows, during a recent House Appropriations-Public Safety Committee hearing.
The pitch, however, fell fairly flat.
The two state-created groups at the hearing – the Metropolitan Pier and Exposition Authority (MPEA), which owns Navy Pier and McCormick Place, and the Illinois Sports Facilities Authority (ISFA), a state entity that owns Guaranteed Rate Field and provided funding for the redevelopment of Soldier Field – do not have large labor forces, so workers' compensation is not necessarily a primary concern.
ISFA has seven employees, and its CEO, Anthony O'Neill, refused to comment.
Illinois ranks at the top of states in terms of amounts paid out in workers’ compensation claims. According to the Workers Compensation Research Institute, which evaluated data from 2013, the average claim in Illinois was $15,626, compared with $10,354 in 17 other states in the study.
Workers’ compensation costs have increased for Illinois businesses as medical coverage has expanded and costs for workers' compensation insurance premiums have risen.
Before the state budget passed, Democrats voiced their frustration at a lack of reform and argued that even groups that don't stand to be directly affected by workers' comp reform could benefit from it.
“Your ability to operate is being held up by things that don’t have any real impact on you,” Rep. William Davis (D-Homewood) said. “Many of us feel we should operate, pass a budget – not without regard to reform items. But the fact is that budgets are being held up in lieu of passing these types of reforms.”
MPEA and ISFA are reeling from the last two years of having little to no state backing and from bond downgrades. Investors are becoming more cautious of such bonds, and the state has been put on notice that credit ratings agencies might move it to junk status – something never done to any U.S. state.