Race to the Bottom: The State Competing with California to be the ‘Left’s Progressive Utopia’

When hearing about the woes of blue states, names like California and New York immediately come to mind, but we may need to add a new name to the list of places Democratic officials are ruining: Illinois.

The Daily Caller reported on Thursday that new data indicates the state our 16th president, Abraham Lincoln, once called home is in a downward spiral.

While California is still leading the nation with the worst unemployment rate in the country at 5.3 percent, Illionois is not far behind in fifth with 4.8 percent.

The comparisons don’t stop there. With the 8th highest tax burden and high crime rates, many Illinoisans are opting to simply leave the state for greener pastures — as Californians have been doing.

Bryce Hill, director of fiscal and economic research at the Illinois Policy Institute, told the Daily Caller News Foundation, “The Census Bureau has reported that residents are leaving the state en masse to the tune of hundreds of thousands every single year, so much so that the state’s population has actually been declining for the past 10 years.”

As of July 2023, Illinois population was 12,549,689. That number was down 32,826 from 2022. Census data showed this fall has been steady, as the population as of April 1, 2020, was 12,813,469.

Heartland Institute Senior Fellow S.T. Karnick cited a few reasons for this decline. “Opinion polls cite high taxes as the top reason people want to leave Illinois, with crime and safety second. Illinois has the fourth-most regulations among the 50 states, which raises prices and kills jobs.”

Violent crime in Chicago went up 18 percent in 2023 compared to ten years prior, with arrests dropping 33 percent over the same time.

Central to Illinois problems is its ballooning pension cost. The state pension debt currently sits at $142.3 billion. Since the 2000 fiscal year, inflation adjusted spending for pensions has gone up 584 percent.

Illinois adopted a new constitution in 1970. Article XIII, Section 5 states pension benefits cannot be “diminished or impaired.” Couple this with Senate Bill 95 in 1989, which created a 3 percent compounding benefit increase for retired Illinoisans in the pension system, and you’ve found the root of the problem.

Hill highlighted the damage in declining population and the pension problem saying, “Migrants take over $10 billion worth of income with them out of state when we lose people due to domestic migration,” but included that the pension is draining the budget and “taking up large sources of revenue.”

Democratic Gov. J.B. Pritzker attempted to take an optimistic view in his State of the State address in February. “We’ve also grown Illinois’ economy to over $1 trillion. … We attracted billions of dollars in new business investments and created tens of thousands of new jobs.”

Illinois GDP grew 2.3 percent year-over-year in the fourth quarter of 2023. This is lower than the national total of 3.4 percent in the same quarter. Numerous businesses have announced downsizing plans in recent years.

While something is clearly amiss, it is amazing how one-size-fits-all the solution is to the catastrophe that plagues blue states.

Firstly, violent crime, and all crime must be dealt with. Declining arrests and increasing crime rates make Illinoisans feel unsafe. Blue state policies invoking leniency on crime must end in Illinois.

Ballooning pensions must cease as it creates a burden on the taxpayer. Illinois has become pro-government and anti-business. Government employees retire to an out-of-control pension fund while the taxpayer foots the bill causing job loss.

Why take your business to Illinois when your taxes are going towards paying a bloated government that can’t even keep you safe?

Pritzker admitted in his SOTS address that Illinois is also being burdened by an influx of illegal immigrants. This will certainly burden the taxpayer further.

If your keeping count, that’s three basic solutions to keep Illinois from becoming another one of the left’s progressive utopias.

Illinoisans need law and order, tax cuts, and a secure border.

This article appeared originally on The Western Journal.

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