Senate Week in Review: Illinois’ Future At Stake

April 4, 2018
Years of poor public policies diminishes Illinois’ promise. I started a successful business and raised my family here, but sadly the many of the opportunities I was able to take advantage of 25 years ago are not available today. Unfortunately, we are paying a heavy price for poor public policy decisions. We’re losing our kids and our families and friends to other states where opportunity and prosperity are growing at a much faster rate.
An Exodus from Metro-East
In a recent editorial, the Belleville News Democrat noted, “St. Clair County lost population at more than double the rate of Illinois during the past five years…for a loss of 1.6 percent of its population.” That is equal to more than 4,200 people. The newspaper also reported, “Madison County lost at the same rate as the state. Bond, Randolph and Washington counties all lost faster than the state at more than 2 percent each.” The state’s population loss in 2017 was 0.7 percent.
Fleeing Illinois
The Illinois Public Policy Institute (IPI) recently looked at Illinois’ out-migration – the loss of population to other states. According to the IPI analysis,“Since 2010, Illinois has lost nearly 643,000 residents on net to other states.” And, “Since 2010, 19 of the 20 largest counties in Illinois have witnessed net migration losses to other counties in the U.S.”

Illinois’ loss of population also made national headlines recently. In a recent analysis/opinion column for The Washington Times, author David Keene wrote, “Illinois is many things, but no one in their right mind would move there and those unlucky enough to have been born there are moving out as fast as they can find jobs or move their businesses somewhere else. Some move as far away as Florida or Texas, but many others are content to simply haul their assets a few miles to Iowa, Wisconsin or Indiana.”                                                                                                                         

Assessing why Illinoisans are leaving, Keene added, “They are fleeing Illinois in jaw-dropping numbers because its citizens have the unique distinction of residing in one of the worst governed and most over-taxed states in the country. They drive on roads that are falling apart and are forced to bear the costs of an incomprehensible level of state and municipal corruption.”

Keene also posed a prediction for our state if we don’t change our ways, “It’s been a long time coming, but Illinois is approaching the cliff at the end of the road the state has been travelling for so long. The state is so cash strapped that last year it had $15 billion in unpaid bills and was forced to raise state income taxes by 32 percent. Still, most analysts believe that even with the massive tax increases that are driving people out, it is on a slippery slope that may make it the first state to be forced into bankruptcy since Arkansas in the 1930s.”

Congressional Seats at Risk
Our loss of population could also mean a loss of representation in Washington D.C. At the end of 2017, the U.S. Census Bureau released population figures showing Illinois is no longer the fifth-most populous state in the nation. Illinois has fallen below Pennsylvania and now occupies sixth place – as outlined in a report by Reason Magazine.
The Illinois News Network – in a December 2017 story highlighting the loss of population – interviewed Southern Illinois University at Carbondale professor emeritus John Jackson. Jackson indicated that if the trend continues, Illinois could lose two Congressional seats after the 2020 Census during reapportionment in 2022. As the Network indicated, Illinois lost a Congressional seat during reapportionment in 2002 and 2012, following the decennial Census in 2000 and 2010. This is because Congressional seats are based on population.
Illinois currently has 18 Members of Congress in the U.S. House. Illinois, as every other state, has two U.S. Senators.
Poor Public Policy
Years of fiscal mismanagement, costly regulations and burdensome taxation have combined to limit Illinois’ economic potential. That means fewer opportunities – an out-migration cause – for our college graduates and fewer jobs for dads and moms trying to raise a family.
Our young people are leaving. I’m reminded of the Jacksonville Journal Courier editorial from last June. The newspaper’s headline warned: “Brain drain is a real problem for state’s future.” The paper editorialized about the lack of opportunity in Illinois and the danger it presents in keeping our young, educated people in Illinois to be the leaders and entrepreneurs of our future: “Virginia Beach and Richmond, Virginia. San Bernardino, California. Memphis, Tennessee. What do these have in common? They all are magnets for millennials — that loosely defined demographic that now is flooding the workplace. Nowhere on that list of hot spots compiled by the Urban Land Institute will any city in Illinois be found.”
The newspaper editorial concluded, “…until Illinois can become competitive with college tuition, realistic about its over-taxation of people and businesses and honest about the years of over-spending that have created a fiscal mess and a poor climate for companies, don’t expect things to change.”
Don’t Ignore the Evidence
In my previous two columns I wrote about how there remains a strong desire in Springfield for higher taxes, even though major income tax hikes were passed in 2011 and six years later in 2017. I also wrote about the impact of those two tax hikes, which took more than $30 billion ($30,000,000,000) out of the pockets of Illinois families and employers, and continue to hit us every payday.
“We the people” can’t afford the current size of our government. What makes the tax burden more painful is government’s mismanagement of the hard-earned tax dollars it receives from each of us.
A recent St. Louis Post Dispatch article cites an Illinois Auditor General report indicating our state’s budget deficit climbed to $14.6 billion in fiscal year 2017, which is a record.
The evidence is clear that even with record-breaking income tax hikes, Illinois government continues to fail to live within its means, or more accurately, within our means. Illinois is not one new tax or tax increase away from prosperity. Illinois’ doesn’t have a fiscal problem because it taxes too little. Illinois has a fiscal problem because it spends too much.
If we don’t bring down the burden of government, our families and friends will continue to leave Illinois for prosperity and opportunity elsewhere.
Notable Quotable
“People try to live within their income so they can afford to pay taxes to a government that can’t live within its income.”  Robert Half (1919 – 2001) American businessman, Founder of a now world-wide human resource consulting firm, which bears his name.