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Illinois needs a positive spark from somewhere

Published: Saturday, July 13, 2013 4:59 a.m. CDT

(MCT) — What if this is as good as it gets? Although Illinois is no longer in the darkened recessionary abyss that engulfed so many for the past several years, a new study questions whether we will end up where we started.

Compare the economy to a car going up a hill. It has built up enough speed to make it just about to the top, but not quite over the threshold of where things were when everything tanked. The question becomes whether it will be able to make that final push over the top, stay below the starting point, or slide back down.

The answer, according to University of Illinois-Urbana professor Robert Bruno, depends largely on the actions of policymakers.

He and research associate Frank Manzo IV believe something has to be done now “jump start the economic recovery.” They call for such things as increasing the minimum wage, adopting a progressive income tax and investing in childhood education.

“The economy is no longer in freefall and there are signs of a return to normalcy, but it’s beginning to flatten out,” said Bruno, who heads the Chicago-based Labor Education Program think-tank. “We’re still closer to the valley than we are to the peak, so we really need to start thinking about how to stimulate the state’s economy even more.”

While we would disagree with some of the approaches, especially the job-killing idea of a hike in one of the nation’s already highest minimum wages, Illinois and its leadership must do something to restore faith to the common man. The only message being sent out now is 180 degrees counter-clockwise: Shovel your tax money into the fire and don’t worry about how it’s spent.

People have endured a massive 67 percent increase in state income tax with the “promise” of it being a temporary measure, only to see now that it’s more of a permanent plan. Businesses, too, have choked down a hefty tax increase — all with the vow it would help get the state back on solid financial footing.

It hasn’t. It won’t.

Illinois needs to realize the value of its people and the importance of the businesses that ignore all logic and locate in the Land of Lincoln.

There needs to be some spark that will boost wage growth, especially among the middle-class. There need to be changes made so taxes aren’t strangling the average worker.

The state needs to show some positive signs of having a future — new businesses, improved roads, actual cooperation among legislators and the governor. Stop the wholesale slashing of programs that are crucial to people simply because state government can’t control its own spending.

Start watching out for the little guy and the economic growth will come.

We see the top of the hill. We have the determination to make it to the top.

What we need now is a little push from lawmakers and state leaders.

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This editorial first appeared in The Telegraph, Alton, Ill.

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©2013 The Telegraph (Alton, Ill.)

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