Illinoisans have nation’s lowest confidence in state economy
The need for foundational change couldn’t be more evident in the Land of Lincoln.
As their incomes have flatlined, manufacturing jobs disappear each day, and talk of tax hikes looms large, Illinoisans have a bleaker view of their state’s economy than residents of any other state, according to Gallup polling.
Fewer than 1 in 4 Illinoisans described current economic conditions in the state as “excellent” or “good,” while 37 percent of residents described current economic conditions in Illinois as “poor.” More Illinois residents gave a rating of “poor” than residents of any other state in the nation.
Illinois was one of only four states where negative opinions of the state economy outweighed positive ones.
And across the Midwest, only Kansas residents joined Illinoisans in having economic confidence levels below the national average. That said, nearly twice as many Kansans as Illinoisans viewed their state’s economy as “excellent” or “good.” And less than half as many Kansans as Illinoisans described their state’s economy as “poor.”
With such low confidence in their state economy’s ability to provide opportunities for their families, it’s no surprise Illinoisans have been packing up and shipping out of the state in droves. The Land of Lincoln loses a resident every five minutes to net out-migration, and survey data from the U.S. Census Bureau show that economic concerns are at the top of movers’ minds when they decide to leave their home states behind.
Between 2014 and 2015, Illinois lost 105,000 more people to other states than it gained, according to U.S. Census Bureau data – a record high.
Gallup conducted its poll between March 30 and Dec. 22, 2015. During most of that time, Illinois Gov. Bruce Rauner and the Democratic General Assembly have been locked in a battle for the future of the state.
Rauner insists the state must pursue bold reforms to change the economic course of Illinois, which has experienced the worst post-recession recovery in the nation in terms of putting people back to work. Illinois House Speaker Mike Madigan claims Rauner’s ideas are “nonbudgetary,” and has refused to discuss them seriously on those grounds.
Rauner’s pro-growth reforms currently on the bargaining table include:
- Regulatory reforms to fix Illinois’ broken workers’ compensation system and anti-business lawsuit climate, which drive well-paying jobs out of the state
- Freezing local property taxes while granting local governments more control over budgetary costs, offering relief to homeowners who often pay more in property taxes than they do on their mortgages
- Restoring trust in Illinois politics by passing term limits
Restoring confidence in Illinois’ economy will not come on the heels of further tax hikes without significant changes to the way the state does business.
The tax-without-reform approach was given a test run in 2011 – with disastrous results. Despite forcing taxpayers to give an additional $31 billion to the state, pension debt skyrocketed, unpaid bills ballooned, and Illinoisans suffered under the weakest jobs recovery in the nation. Meanwhile, Illinoisans continued to leave the state in record numbers.
Illinoisans deserve what a vast majority of Americans already feel about the state of their states: hope. Hope that they’ll be able to provide for their families for years to come, hope that their children will want to raise their own families close by, and hope for the new and exciting opportunities that come with a booming business climate.
But in the Land of Lincoln, the status quo is hopelessness.