Want to fix Illinois’ railroads? Pass workers’ compensation reform first
Illinois spends three times more on workers’ compensation for railroad construction and maintenance than neighboring Indiana.
The Chicago Transit Authority’s May 17 closure of the Yellow Line after an embankment collapse and the May 12 Amtrak tragedy in Philadelphia have placed a political spotlight on infrastructure and transportation spending in Illinois.
Concerns of underfunding are typically met with calls for fare hikes and tax increases. But in the case of railroad spending, more palatable policy solutions are within reach. Lawmakers can start by reforming a broken workers’ compensation system that hikes the cost of railroad labor in Illinois relative to neighboring states.
In fact, Illinois spends three times more in workers’ compensation costs for railroad labor than neighboring Indiana.
That means for every $10 million in labor costs to lay down new tracks, for example, Illinois pays $750,000 more than Indiana in workers’ compensation costs alone.
“As the attorneys for the State in cases filed by State employees before the Illinois Workers’ Compensation Commission, our office has worked to limit the State’s liability whenever possible. The current law and the decisions interpreting the law, however, make it extremely difficult for employers, including the State, to successfully defend these cases and limit the costs.”
For the state government and localities to do more, save more and tax less, lowering the regulatory cost of infrastructure sending is a necessary first step. Workers’ compensation reform is a great place to start.