Friday, December 23, 2011
THE CHICAGO EXPULSION ACT OF 2011
THE CHICAGO EXPULSION ACT OF 2011!
WINDY CITY POLS ARE BANKRUPTING ILLINOIS & AMERICA WITH BAILOUTS FOR THEIR SANCTUARIES!
NOW DOWNSTATE LEGISLATORS ARE FIGHTING BACK.
By ALLYSIA FINLEY
"Why would anyone want to live in Illinois?" So muses Curt Wooters, who works for the state and helps his dad run the family's sporting-goods store in Findlay, 200 miles south of Chicago.
Imagine California without the sunshine, New York without the cultural elan, New Jersey without Chris Christie.
Mr. Wooters has another five years before he can retire, but he's advising his kids to leave the state after college. He's also talked with his dad about closing their shop because it costs too much to run a business in Illinois these days. Plus, "the customers are leaving town."
Now two downstate Republican lawmakers think that they've found a solution for Mr. Wooters and other disgruntled Illinoisans who want to escape but can't: Cut off the pesky tail that's wagging the dog—separate Chicago from the rest of the state.
That's the legislative initiative of State Reps. Adam Brown and Bill Mitchell, who think politicians from the Windy City have blown the state too far left. "At every town-hall meeting I hear, 'Can't we separate from Chicago?'" says Mr. Mitchell.
Chicago pols control almost all seats of power in Illinois. Gov. Pat Quinn, House Speaker Mike Madigan, Senate President John Cullerton, Attorney General Lisa Madigan and Secretary of State Jesse White are all Democrats from Chicago. So was former Gov. Rod Blagojevich, who this month was sentenced to 14 years in prison for corruption, including trying to sell President Obama's vacated seat in the U.S. Senate. Consequently, as Mr. Wooters says, a lot "of the money that we have down here goes up there to bail out Chicago."
In 2008, lawmakers in Springfield cobbled together a $530 million rescue package for Chicago's transit system, which was on the brink of collapse because of sky-high labor and legacy costs. Just this week they pushed through $300 million of tax credits for the Chicago Mercantile Exchange, Chicago Board Options Exchange and Sears to prevent the businesses from fleeing to lower-tax climes. Both Indiana and Ohio have been aggressively poaching Illinois businesses, especially since January, when lawmakers raised the state income tax to a flat 5% from 3% and the corporate tax to 9.5% from 7.3%.
The special carve-outs may stop Sears and the financial exchanges from flying the coop, but the income-tax hikes will still prove job-killers. While the jobless rate in other Midwest states has stayed relatively flat over the past year, Illinois's unemployment rate has risen to 10.1% from 9%. Most of the lost jobs are in information technology and financial services, which are some of the easiest to move.
Mr. Wooters knows several people who are leaving the state. His neighbors are moving to Kentucky, his best friend to Tennessee. Another friend, who owns a chain of agricultural-supply stores, has moved to Florida and is expanding operations in other states. Most of the state's business class appears bearish about their own future. In a Chicago Tribune survey of 45 chief executives of large, publicly held Illinois businesses, only two said they expected the state's economic condition to improve in the next year.
Little wonder why. The state's bond debt has soared to $30 billion from $9.2 billion in 2002, when Democrats seized control of both the governorship and statehouse. Lawmakers have borrowed $10 billion just to fund the state's pension system, which is running a $210 billion unfunded liability. In fact, all of the $7 billion raised by this year's income and corporate tax hikes is going toward funding pensions.
Lawmakers tinkered with pension reform last year, raising the retirement age to 67 for new employees, but Democrats don't see an urgent need to make more significant changes. This week, after catching flak from unions, Democrats sought to take back their support for proposed legislation that would curb egregious pension abuses by labor leaders.
Meanwhile, Republicans, who occupy about 40% of legislative seats, aren't exactly holding the Democrats' feet to the fire. As Speaker Madigan's spokesman Steve Brown told me, "95% of things that get done in Illinois are a result of compromise."
"Republicans who held power in the 1980s and '90s were not ideological. They supported tax increases," says John Tillman of the Illinois Policy Institute. More recently, most Republicans supported the Democrats' crony-capitalist tax credits for Chicago businesses, rather than insisting that the legislature roll back the corporate and income tax hikes.
But is booting Chicago from the state a feasible answer? It might win GOP lawmakers some points with conservative constituents, but it's no more likely to happen than the dream of some Californians to partition the Golden State in two. The division would require the approval of the state legislature, Congress and the people of Chicago.
Illinois Republicans would be better off spending their time devising a strategy to win the statehouse and governorship. The first step would be to educate the public about the state's problems and about how Republicans and Democrats differ in their proposed solutions. And while Chicago might be a lost cause for them, Republicans would do well to target their message at the Cook County suburbs, where most statewide elections are won and lost.
A few years ago it seemed unlikely that Republicans could seize control of legislatures and governorships in Wisconsin, Ohio and Michigan, all heavily unionized states. But it's happened in all three. That's the difference that budgetary chaos, a strong party organization and the right message can make.
Ms. Finley is assistant editor of OpinionJournal.com.
Posted by Eileen at 9:09 PM