Rep. Keith Wheeler
SPRINGFIELD – House Democrats this week pushed through poorly-written legislation that would put the State of Illinois into the worker’s compensation insurance business. State Representative Keith Wheeler (R-Oswego) issued the following statement in response to the party line vote approving House Bill 2622:

Specifically, House Bill 2622 would create a state-run nonprofit corporation to offer workers compensation insurance to employers; this despite the fact that Illinois already has the most competitive workers’ compensation insurance market in the nation, with over 330 private companies already operating in the state.

“HB 2622 would put the taxpayers of Illinois on the hook for an initial $10 million start-up loan for the creation of a not-for-profit workers’ compensation insurance company; $3 million of which comes right off the top to cover overhead costs. The bill sponsor presented no business plan and no information for how they would seek paying clients. Our state’s inability to pass a balanced budget and live within its means is well documented. There is absolutely nothing to indicate that this $10 million investment would deliver the results for Illinois’ jobs climate promised by the sponsor.”

“We need real reforms that drive down the actual cost of workers’ compensation insurance for Illinois job creators; beginning with stronger causation standards that curb fraud and abuse of the system. This alone would go far in moving the needle to reduce the astronomical costs our businesses pay.”

SPRINGFIELD – State Representative Keith Wheeler (R-Oswego) took action on Tuesday to make a state budget agreement possible by filing three different versions of legislation to adopt a bipartisan revenue estimate on which to base a budget for the upcoming fiscal year. State law requires the General Assembly to adopt a revenue estimate each year as the first step toward passing a state budget. The State of Illinois is currently mired in a 22-month long budget impasse.
Economy – Unemployment Rate
·         Illinois unemployment rate drops below 5.0 percent.  The Illinois Department of Employment Security (IDES) reported this week that the jobless rate dropped 50 basis points in March, from 5.4% to 4.9%.  The new number marked the first time in 10 years that Illinois’ statewide unemployment rate dropped below the benchmark level of 5.0%.  

The falling unemployment rate was not a sign of new jobs being created in Illinois.  Although the decline in unemployment was significant, Illinois once again saw a net loss in total nonfarm payroll positions tracked by the IDES.  Illinois nonfarm payrolls dropped by 8,900 jobs from February 2017 to March 2017.  There were significant slowdowns in construction (down 7,100 jobs), professional and business services (down 3,600 jobs), and government (down 1,900 jobs).  The decline in unemployment was entirely accounted for by a net decrease of more than 70,000 workers in the Illinois labor force.

Illinois’s unemployment rate, at 4.9% for March 2017, remains higher than the jobless rate for the nation as a whole, which was 4.5% for the same month.  Many U.S. states have even lower unemployment rates.  For example, high-tech Massachusetts notched an unemployment rate of 3.6% in March.      
Budget – Stopgap
·         House Democrats advance irresponsible stopgap spending plan.  It is disappointing, but not surprising, that Democrats once again rammed another stopgap spending plan through the House – it’s precisely why Democrats have been unwilling to negotiate with House Republicans on a full, balanced budget. 

We have said all along that it was the plan of the Speaker and the majority party to only pass stopgap spending plans and allow our state to simply limp along to get to the next election – and their most recent actions prove that.

Unfortunately, we’ve seen all of this before. Typically, right before a break or deadline, the majority party decides it’s best to play politics and passes a spending plan that never balances or fails to address the real issues of our state so that they can go home and pretend that they’ve done their job.

Our students, community colleges and universities and social services providers deserve long-term certainty.  The House Democrat plan does nothing to address their long term problems and concerns and simply strings them along.