Reforms described as only way of stopping depletion of Illinois population, business
Michael Lucci sees the handwriting on the wall, and it spells trouble.
Lucci, the vice president of policy at the Illinois Policy Institute, doesn't see a lot of hope in turning around the dramatic out-migration of people and businesses from Illinois.
“Not enough jobs, cost of living and taxes too high,” Lucci told the Chicago City Wire of the impetus for the mass exodus. “A recent Paul Simon Institute survey found 47 percent of people answered 'taxes' to the question of why they wanted to leave the state.”
Chicago was the only city among the nation’s 20 most populous to lose residents in 2016, according to a U.S. Census Bureau report in the Chicago Tribune. The state lost 37,508 residents in 2016 -- twice as many as it lost the year before and marking the third straight year population has fallen across the region.
In recent times, many Illinoisans have gravitated to sun-drenched destinations such as Texas, Florida and Arizona, particularly as those states have emerged to offer greater job opportunities and affordable housing options.
Many of those heading for the border told the Chicago Tribune their reasons ranged from the state budget stalemate to spiraling unemployment and rising crime rates.
“Illinois is losing population in 21 of 29 of its largest cities with residents moving to other states,” Lucci said. “We need to freeze property taxes and change policies where they are more geared toward job creation and the overall welfare of residents. Freezing taxes helps in job creation because manufacturing systems pay large taxes, and freezing them helps create more money to hire workers and invest in equipment.”
Lucci fears the state’s economy will shrink even more without major reforms, and said the city could ultimately face bankruptcy or insolvency.
“Chicago’s debts are so high and the pensions are so unbelievably out of control that they are worse than other areas,” he said. “We’re headed to a place where this whole situation will have to be solved as a crisis instead of as part of a productive dialogue.”
Lucci has said that most of those leaving Illinois are taxpayers who earn much more on average than those who have arrived in Illinois over the same period.
“Some lawmakers see the gravity of what is happening, while others don’t care and would rather keep power,” he said.