Ep. 41: Stay & Fight for Illinois with Matt Paprocki
Illinois has seen hundreds of thousands of residents move away in recent years. Maybe you’ve even wondered whether you should move, too. But nothing is permanent, and Illinois’ people problem is something we can fix. Matt Paprocki joins the Policy Shop to talk about how to turn the tide on Illinois’ challenges and who he’s talking to to fix the state’s problems. Learn more by subscribing to the Policy Shop newsletter at illin.is/newsletter.
This edition of The Policy Shop comes to you from President Matt Paprocki.
Illinois has seen hundreds of thousands of residents move away in recent years. And each one of us can probably name someone who has left this state. Maybe you’ve even wondered whether you should move, too.
On the decline: 2021 marked Illinois’ eighth consecutive year of population loss, with 122,460 more people moving out of state than coming in. The state’s total population loss and its raw number of people leaving were third worst in the nation, only better than New York and California.
Two years after the beginning of the COVID-19 downturn, Illinois is one of the last states to recover in terms of employment. We’ve only regained 82% of the jobs lost during the pandemic. Illinois is still missing 146,300 jobs relative to the 2020 peak. And Illinois experienced the smallest increase in 2021 of any state for new business applications, which are most likely to create jobs.
On the increase: Illinois’ property taxes are the second highest in the nation. That makes home ownership impossible for many families. One analysis showed Illinois’ average property tax bills amounted to seven extra months of mortgage payments.
The main driver behind property tax growth is Illinois’ pension crisis, with $139 billion in unfunded pension debt in its five state plans. That represents about $30,000 per Illinois household that eventually must be paid in taxes. Illinois spends more on pensions than any other state.
Add in the debt for local government pensions, and there’s another $75 billion in pension debt. Grand total for state and local pension debt: roughly $45,000 for each and every Illinois household.
And it all exists because state lawmakers and local politicians promised more money to government retirees than taxpayers could afford. Many working families are choosing to leave home and move to more tax-friendly states. But when they go, fewer people are left to pay Illinois’ ever-increasing government costs.
On the air: This is a lot to contend with, but we’ve got solutions to fix Illinois’ biggest problems and stem our population loss. With all the negative stories out there, we wanted to do something different. So, on June 9, we launched a new podcast called “Stay & Fight.” It’s about extraordinary Illinoisans who have made profound impacts in their communities, and who, despite all the issues in this state, are dedicated to staying here and fighting for its future.
Check out the podcast and subscribe here.
Here are a few of the stories you’ll hear about our fellow Illinoisans:
- Randy Lewis was an executive at Walgreens when his son Austin got diagnosed with autism. Not only did his son make him a better person, but he inspired him to do something that no one had ever done before: hire 200 workers with disabilities at a 600-person distribution facility. It’s blossomed into a movement that’s changed the world, and Randy Lewis is staying and fighting in Illinois.
- Tony Saliba grew up “on the wrong side of the tracks,” but mentorship from the golfers he caddied for changed his life. He received the Evans Scholarship, a full-ride college scholarship for underprivileged caddies, and with his success he’s since given millions back to the program. It’s an incredible American dream story that happened in Illinois, and Tony is staying and fighting in the state he loves.
- Vince Kolber is an entrepreneur who could be retired on a beach somewhere. Instead, his belief that voters should have a choice led him to run for office twice as a Republican in deep blue Chicago. Vince’s challenge to us is to stay and fight for the state where we built families, careers and community.
Illinois is a place we should all be proud to call home.