While Gov. J.B. Pritzker's recently released five-year economic plan for the state focuses on retaining young people, new poll numbers suggest it’s the state’s finances that has people looking to leave.
AARP released new poll data through the Center for Illinois Politics. The poll taken at the end of the Rauner administration of 1,200 voters 25 years old and older asked a variety of different questions, many focused on the state’s fiscal issues and how to solve them.
“Our state’s deep fiscal problems, including the $6 billion unpaid bill backlog, $130 billion pension deficit, and near-junk level credit rating hurts Illinoisans of all ages on a daily basis,” AARP Director Ryan Gruenenfelder said. “To display the true impact of the state’s troubling finances, it was important this poll reveal how important solving these problems is to Illinoisans of all ages.”
Center for Illinois Politics Editor Kerry Kasper said most voters would typically use the phrase “extremely angry” about state government; 85 percent said lawmakers should address the state’s backlogged bills and pension debt.
The poll also found 57 percent think Illinois needs both budget cuts and tax increases while 26 percent say cut services only. Fourteen percent said there only needs to be more revenue.
While 59 percent support a progressive income tax, 59 percent oppose increasing income taxes above 4.95 percent, the current flat level. Kasper said 71 percent oppose a retirement tax.
“This issue of retirement tax and looking at how the graduated income tax may or may not be supported I think will give us some clues as we look to next November,” Kasper said.
Voters will be asked whether to change the state constitution to allow for a progressive income tax in which higher wage earners pay higher rates during next year's presidential election.
State Rep. Tim Butler, R-Springfield, said he knows the retirement tax is a bad idea.
“One of the minor advantages that we have in the state of Illinois is that we don’t tax retirement income and I hope to heck that we don’t start looking at taxing retirement income,” Butler said. “It’s the one thing that allows people to stay in state because they know their retirement is not going to be taxed on the state level.”
Kasper said the poll also showed that 79 percent of respondents say they know someone looking to leave the state.
“They’re considering moving out of state for one of three reasons, lower taxes elsewhere, a lower cost of living or a better run state or local government,” Kasper said. “So they’re thinking about it. Their friends and neighbors are thinking about it. They’re talking about it at cocktail parties.”
The poll comes on the heels of Pritzker releasing his five-year economic plan that looks to reverse out-migration by retaining young people through workforce development and higher education. Kasper said you can’t forget the older retirees.
“Because they’re angry, they’re voting with their feet, they’re the ones that are often reading the newspaper and reading about these economic plans,” Kasper said.
Butler said to him the message is clear.
“We need to hold the line on spending,” Butler said. “We need to find ways to hold the line on taxes where we can. Property taxes are perennially a huge issue.”