Monday, July 20, 2015
Make Illinois great again
LAWRENCE BAY had this column published in the July 20, 2015 Dispatch/Argus. ..... denotes paragraph breaks. "Illinois is steadily falling further behind our neighboring states. Scott County continues to widen its advantage over Rock Island County. In 2014, 96,000 Illinoisans left for other states, 1.4 million since 1990. ...... Homes in Rock Island County sell much slower and at a lower price than in Scott County, the difference in new home construction is enormous. Scott County retail is thriving, collecting $147.4 million in sales taxes in 2012 while Rock Island County collected only $74.5 million. ..... New businesses and residents shun Illinois. Illinois used to be the leader of the Midwest. Why the change? How can Illinois again become competitive? ...... Almost across the board, taxes are higher in Illinois. An easy example of the impact of taxes can be seen in gasoline: every day thousands of Illinoisans fuel up in Iowa; while there they may do other shopping and dining, paying gasoline and sales taxes in Iowa and not Illinois. Property taxes are higher in Illinois, among the highest in the nation. ..... Indeed, Illinois is in the top 25 percent in almost every tax category. ..... The Illinois Legislature passed a budget with a deficit of $4 billion (vetoed by Gov. Bruce Rauner). It demands that taxes be raised to cover that $4 billion deficit, which will add further stimulus to the Illinois Exodus. ..... Every attempt to reduce spending is met by howls of anguish and a cry that the state should instead devote yet more money to this or that important cause. Every area of our state, including the Quad-Cities, wants yet more money for some vital project which will add to our deficit and tax burden. ..... There has to be a better way. Perhaps we should look to our neighboring states, especially Iowa, and try to find out how they are doing so much better than Illinois. ...... Illinois has a Prevailing Wage Act which adds 10 percent to 35 percent to the cost of every taxpayer-funded construction project. Nineteen states, Including Iowa and Indiana, do not have a prevailing wage law. Illinois could have a lot more road and building construction at less cost by repealing prevailing wage. We could build better schools and libraries without raising taxes without the prevailing wage inflating costs. Illinois is a "union-shop" state surrounded by right-to-work states including Iowa and Indiana. Many firms will not consider locating in a union-shop state. ..... Illinois has far more layers of government than almost any state. The resultant bureaucracy adds greatly to the cost of government in Illinois. ..... Consider Rock Island County schools where there are 10 school districts plus the Regional Office of Education serving a student population of roughly 22,000. Consolidation into one office would reduce the redundant bureaucracies, freeing more resources to use for actually educating our children. ..... Illinois has township government even in municipal areas: each township has a property tax assessor, many have a highway department and many have a township office and maintenance facility. Iowa only has limited township government in unincorporated areas; rural roads and property assessments are done by the county. ..... Illinois could save a lot of money and achieve greater efficiency by emulating the Iowa system. ..... Illinois has among the highest worker compensation costs of any state, far higher than any of our neighboring states. This encourages businesses to locate in other states. Reform is needed. ..... Government pension costs need to be reined in. For too long our politicians have sweetened pension benefits for political favor without paying for these benefits, leaving Illinois with an unsustainable obligation of $100 billion while other retirement systems in Chicago and statewide hold only a fraction of the money needed. ..... Illinois is in a deep financial hole and the first rule when stuck in a hole is stop digging. Illinois should temporarily curtail adding new financial obligations. Then Illinois should implement some reforms that would streamline our governments and make Illinois more attractive to new residents and businesses. ..... Let's make Illinois great again!"