One of the main talking points coming from the Democratic Party is that we need to focus on the budget crisis now and leave talk about reforms for later. We’ve heard the same argument on TV, radio, in op-ed’s and even in speeches on the floor.
This attitude shows a clear lack of knowledge of how our budget works. Reform issues are budget issues. Reforms affect how we spend our money and how much money we need to spend.
One of the biggest complaints we hear from manufacturing businesses is the high cost of worker’s compensation in Illinois. This is the cost to insure employees from on-the-job injuries. Making this insurance more efficient would help lower the cost of anyone who has employees. Guess who the biggest employer of the state is? That’s right, the government! The non-partisan, General Assembly-sponsored Legislative Research Unit did a study to determine the savings to state and local governments if we had average work comp insurance costs and determined that we would save an approximate $190 million! This does not include indirect savings that governments would realize from lowered construction cost through third-party vendors. It may be $500 million or more.
Another example is updating our procedures and processes in state agencies and educational institutions. If we consolidate our bureaucracies, we can save money. If we update computer systems that can communicate with each other across agencies, we save money.
Moreover, reforms that help business help the government’s bottom line in three ways. One, they increase the likelihood that we will eventually get back the 200,000 jobs still missing from the Great Recession. This means increased tax revenue to the treasury. Two, more jobs decreases the need and stress on social services for things like unemployment insurance and welfare assistance. And three, increased efficiency through reducing or eliminating outdated and unnecessary regulation lowers costs for all levels of government so that they can spend more of their money providing necessary services.
Simply put, reforms are clearly budget issues. Enact structural reforms and we grow our economy. Grow our economy and more revenues are available for the state to provide the important services it needs to provide for the people of Illinois.
The way to solve our budget crisis is to grow our way out. The way to grow is to enact real reforms. We hope our friends on the other side of the aisle will recognize that soon.
Rep. Keith Wheeler, R-Oswego;
Rep. Mark Batinick, R-Plainfield;
Rep. Steve Andersson, R-Geneva;
Rep. Grant Wehrli, R-Naperville.