Vetoed workers' compensation bill returns to House
A Democrat-sponsored bill Gov. Bruce Rauner vetoed last year hit the House floor again.
HB4595, sponsored by Rep. Laura Fine (D-Glenview), creates the Illinois Employers Mutual Insurance Co., a nonprofit workers' compensation organization to be initially funded by $10 million Department of Insurance loan.
Fine said during the April 26 House floor debate that 27 other states carry a private-public workers' compensation, and Illinois ought to implement the program, Rep. Peter Breen (R-Lombard) immediately moved for standard debate and yielded his five minutes to Rep. Keith Wheeler (R-Oswego).
Noting their discussion several times in committee, Wheeler asked Fine again how much insurance could be sold through the $10 million loan.
“Three dollars of insurance for every dollar of investment,” Fine said.
Wheeler wanted to know the average profit margin of a workers' compensation company, and Fine circuitously replied.
“I am afraid you didn’t answer the question, because back in 2011 workers' compensation companies were not making a profit; they were losing money,” Wheeler said.
If this is a competitive market like Fine suggests, Wheeler said the $30 million premium she wants to write will not generate enough profit to repay the state within the time period allowed.
“That is pretty much simple math, so this bill can’t work,” Wheeler said.
Fine disagreed, saying insurance rates for employers should drop in 2018.
“If you ask the employers in your district, I can guarantee you they have not seen that decrease,” Fine said.
After noting Fine’s idea that the state can pay back $2 million a year is somewhat “magical,” Rep. Jeanne Ives (R-Wheaton) used her five minutes to speak straight to the bill, first noting she has easily seen the bill at least half a dozen times.
“It came back for a veto override that didn’t happen, so we have seen this bill endlessly,” Ives said.
In all the time the bill has floated through Springfield, Ives said not a single business group has backed the bill; she pointed out the contrary, noting not one company has ever said, “We need an Illinois State run workers compensation company.”
“In fact, when you look at the number of people opposed to this, you see that it is largely the business groups,” Ives said.
She questioned what the General Assembly is doing.
“If you think that we get out of $250 billion in debt minimum as a state and pay down nearly $9 billion in back bills, without expanding our business activity in this state, you are wrong,” Ives said.
Naming the litany of business opposed to the bill, Ives said you can’t love jobs and hate job creators. Rep. Grant Wehrli (R-Naperville) called Fine’s bill deja vu, asking her how that bill worked out for her last year.
“I thought it was a great idea, or otherwise I wouldn’t be running it again,” Fine said.
“It got vetoed,” Wehrli said.
While Fine said they haven’t addressed workers' compensation since, Wehrli countered, noting they haven’t addressed any of the veto concerns either.
“Honestly, I think this is a terrible idea,” Wehrli said.
And if it is such a great idea, Wehrli asked Fine, why has she not asked the proponents to contribute $1 million rather than have the state seek a $10 million loan to create the program?
“After the fund is paid back it is no longer the state,” Fine answered.
That’s not what he asked, Wehrli said.
“How come they are not willing to put their money where their mouth is instead of relying on the taxpayers of the state of Illinois,” Wehrli asked.
After saying the bill was terrible then and now, Wehrli yielded the rest of his time to Rep. Steven Reick (R-Woodstock), who called the legislation Marley’s ghost.
“I have been in this chamber for one term and I have already voted on this bill four times,” Reick said.
Reick asked the sponsor the same question he said he has queried many times before.
“Do you have a business plan that indicates exactly how you are going to gain revenue and pay back the money you are intending to borrow,” Reick asked.
With no answer, Reick noted again the bill was a ghost.
“It just keeps coming back and coming back and coming back, so we have to vote this thing down, put a steak to its heart and kill it,” Reick said.
Against Reick’s advice, HB4595 lives on by passing 62-43 and will now move to the Senate for debate and vote.