Illinois is the only state in the region with a shrinking population, having lost 105,000 people to other states from July 2014 to July 2015.
That means that Illinois loses one resident every five minutes. A U.S. Census Bureau survey reveals the reason, and it’s bad news for Illinois. Most people who move more than 500 miles from home do so for employment related reasons, according to surveys of Americans who have moved in the last year. Another 21 percent cite housing related reasons.
With the loss of residents setting records for the second year in a row, State Rep. Charlie Meir (R-Okawville) said,“The whole thing is about overtaxation and a lack of good jobs.”
“We have some of the highest real estate taxes in the country,” Meier said. The second highest real estate taxes to be exact, second only to New Jersey.
“As for creating jobs, our good manufacturing jobs are gone. The other states around us have been able to add manufacturing jobs and we are losing our manufacturing jobs,” Meier said. “Companies do not want to invest in Illinois.”
Losing jobs means losing young people, because after they graduate from college, they leave the state to find work, he said.
“These starter jobs can’t support a family and those are the only new jobs we’ve been adding,” Meier said.
Older generations are leaving too.
“A lot of them are going and moving to where their children have moved," he said,
To counteract the trend, Meier would like to see an expansion of the enterprise zones. In these designated zones, businesses can obtain special state and local tax incentives, regulatory relief, and improved governmental services.
“The enterprise zones are helping,” Meier said. “Those same criteria should apply across the whole state so we can bring in businesses faster.”
He would also like to see Illinois use the assets it already possesses.
“Whether it's ethanol, or clean burning coal, or clean burning natural gas plants, we need to use our natural resources to create jobs and keep our young people here,” Meier said.
High taxes and a lack of career-worthy jobs are only the symptoms, and State Rep. Dwight Kay (R-Glen Carbon) said he knows the cause of the disease.
“Most people realize that the last 35 years of government has been very bad government,” he said. “The chickens have come home to roost and people are finally understanding just how badly this state was run.”
He pointed to specific areas of government and even to Speaker of the House Michael J. Madigan, who has served in that capacity almost continuously since 1983.
“We have to persuade Mike Madigan that he needs to step down,” Kay said. “He is the author and finisher of everything that’s happened in the last 25 years.”
In order to save Illinois, Kay said, compromise will be essential. “Compromise is not a bad thing, but compromise has been rejected out of hand by speaker Madigan this past year.”
He named issues such as workers' compensation, a balanced budget, tort reform and a fair tax base.
“They’ve all been rejected out of hand," Kay said. "It takes two parties to compromise.”