Gov. Walker’s 2017 budget hurts workers rights laws in that it seeks to eliminate the Wisconsin workers compensation Labor and Industry Review Commission (LIRC). LIRC is the appeal board that reviews decisions of administrative law judges in workers compensation hearings.

The Labor and Industry Review Commission is a key reason why Wisconsin’s Worker’s Compensation System is a national model. This three-person Commission (LIRC) serves as the independent second-level administrative review of worker’s compensation decisions. The Executive Budget proposes to eliminate LIRC by transferring its jurisdiction over Worker’s Compensation to one person: The Administrator of Department of Administration’s Division of Hearings and Appeals. The Administrator would assume this task without being provided any additional staff. This move saves little General Purpose Revenue (GPR) and threatens system participants with instability and increased costs.

Request: Preserve LIRC and its Jurisdiction Over Worker’s Compensation Claims

• LIRC Provides Expertise; Promotes Stability.

Stability: LIRC has been developing WC law for half a century. LIRC provides uniform, statewide Worker’s Compensation decisions. This keeps costs predictable and coverage affordable for employers.

Expertise: LIRC’s extensive legal and technical staff have a proven record of analyzing and developing Worker’s Compensation. The court system affords LIRC deference because of its expertise. DHA Not Provided Additional Staff. Under the proposed budget, the Division of Hearings and Appeals is not provided with additional legal or technical staff with which to handle second-level review of Worker’s compensation claims.

• Elimination Provides Little Savings to Taxpayers – May Be Offset by Increased Court Costs. Eliminating LIRC saves little, if any, General Purpose Revenue (GPR). The WC system is self-funded and any savings from the WC function of LIRC is likely to be offset by increased court costs as more cases are appealed to the Circuit Courts. There, the Court of Appeals is often the final arbiter.

LIRC Resolves Disputes Faster and at Lower Costs than Courts.

• Instability Increases Costs/Premiums. Wisconsin benefits from robust competition among WC insurance carriers. Insurers are eager to enter and remain in this market because the system stability allows predictable and accurate forecasting of exposure. Consistent LIRC interpretations aid that system stability, which has one of the lowest litigation rates in the country (10-15%) versus other states.

• Not Vetted. This proposal was not vetted by the Worker’s Compensation Advisory Council. Changes that threaten system stability and may increase costs deserve a thorough vetting through the WCAC.

McCormick Law Office in Milwaukee is one of several law firms in Wisconsin working to preserve and improve our model workers compensation system. We believe reason will prevail and the legislature will not toss out the best workers compensation system in the country. Since 1911, workers comp protects workers rights laws.