SPRINGFIELD – I love Illinois.
This is the state where I grew up, where I have chosen to raise my family and where I hope to spend the rest of my life.
At different points during my career, I’ve left the Land of Lincoln.
But I have always returned because this is my home.
And it’s your home, too. So we have a shared interest in making our state better. We may disagree on how to accomplish that, but we all have an interest in seeing Illinois improve.
Increasingly people are finding that Illinois is not a state that offers the opportunities they want for themselves and their families.
Don’t believe me?
Well, take a look at these numbers compiled by Jackson Adams, my colleague here at Illinois News Network:
• Allied Van Lines said Illinois was one of their top five most outbound states, with 986 more moves out than moves in the last year.
• United Van Lines reported Illinois was the second most outbound state, with 2,251 more moves out than in. Illinois was United’s most outbound state in 2011.
• Atlas Van Lines also reported Illinois as an outbound state, with 862 more moves out than in.
People who use moving companies often are taking part in corporate moves being paid for by their company. That speaks volumes about where job opportunities are and aren’t.
In fact, this past week, Moody’s Analytics ranked Illinois 50th in projected job creation for this year.
Looking at those moving company numbers it is clear that opportunity is flowing out of the Land of Lincoln.
So why is Illinois on the losing end of these migration patterns?
It’s tempting to blame our blustery winters and say that’s why people don’t want to live here.
The problem with that assumption is that some of the states doing better than Illinois have colder winters. For example, Indiana, which has an identical climate to Illinois, is rapidly attracting people.
Taxes are a major factor in determining where businesses grow and where people live.
The Legislature’s decision to jack up income taxes by 67 percent in 2011 made Illinois a far less attractive state for corporations and individuals.
This could explain why jobs and people are leaving the Land of Lincoln. But that doesn’t mean we are without hope. The tax hike is slated to expire next year.
That in itself will have a positive effect on the state’s economy. Unfortunately there are some who would like to see this tax hike extended. Or they would like to see our current flat tax rate replaced by a graduated income tax.
Either move would further accelerate Illinois’ decline. We love this state and want to see it prosper.
Policies that encourage job creation and reward individual achievement, will help keep more people from packing up and leaving this place we love.
• Scott Reeder is a veteran statehouse reporter and the journalist in residence at the Illinois Policy Institute.