Authored by Brad Weisenstein via IllinoisPolicy.org,
A year ago, over half of Illinoisans considered moving away, but today it’s more than 6 in 10, a new poll shows. The No. 1 reason cited for wanting to move? High taxes.
While 53% of Illinoisans thought about moving out of state a year ago, the number is now up to 61%, according to a new poll by NPR Illinois and the University of Illinois, Springfield.
The No. 1 reason to leave Illinois was state taxes, which were cited by 27% of those who considered a move within the past year. Reason No. 2 was state government and policies, at 17%. Better weather was third, listed by 15% of those who considered moving.
The Illinois Issues poll results contain a warning for Gov. J.B. Pritzker and his push to eliminate the Illinois Constitution’s flat income tax protection: “Respondents reporting a household income of more than $100,000 a year (68%) are nearly ten percentage points higher than other income groups to say they’ve considered moving out of the state, with those reporting a household income lower than $45,000 (58%) being least likely.”
In other words, those most able to afford a move and who stand to lose the most are much more likely to leave than those who can least afford to do so, according to the poll. If state taxes are the top reason to move, more state taxes would likely be even more of a reason to move.
Despite Pritzker’s rhetoric about a “fair tax” that just asks “the rich” to pay more, another recent poll showed Illinoisans don’t trust Springfield politicians to limit higher taxes to high income groups. The poll by Ideas Illinois in June showed nearly half of those polled saw a progressive state income tax as “just a blank check for Springfield politicians to spend more and will hurt Illinois’ economy and force businesses to leave the state.”
Springfield politicians have said they definitely want to spend more. They just passed 21 new or increased tax and fee hikes, including a doubled gasoline tax, to support a record $40 billion state budget and $45 billion infrastructure plan.
Pritzker projected the progressive income tax change would produce another $3.4 billion, but he has promised $10 billion in new spending that he would fund through the tax. Additionally, analysis by the Illinois Policy Institute has shown the tax rates Pritzker proposed would fall as much as $2 billion short of his $3.4 billion estimate.
That means he could not deliver his spending promises or even begin to address the state’s growing $137 billion pension debt without expanding his progressive tax increases to the middle class. If the state constitution’s flat income tax protection were removed, it would be easier for politicians to divide taxpayers into small groups and raise their taxes without the political fallout they suffered after raising taxes on everyone at once in 2011 and 2017.
Public employee pensions now consume more than one-fourth of the state budget, with Illinois spending more on pensions than any other state – increasing by 501% since 2000, at the same time state services have been cut by nearly one-third. Locally, pensions are driving property tax increases and service cuts in communities across Illinois. Pension funds are increasingly intercepting state funds from municipalities for missed pension payments, while other cities have cut emergency and other city workers to make pension payments.
Rather than amending the Illinois Constitution to change how the state taxes, it needs to be changed regarding how the state spends. Pension reform that allows for changes in future, not-yet-earned benefit accruals as well as a smart spending cap and true balanced budget requirement are three constitutional changes that would make fewer Illinoisans think about leaving.
Illinoisans don’t just think about moving: They are already doing it. For the past five years, Illinois has been one of only two states to consecutively lose population – shedding 157,000 residents. There is a chance it could mark its sixth year of population loss when new estimates come out in December.
Lawmakers should learn that the more Illinois tries to tax its way out of its troubles, the fewer Illinoisans there are left behind to pay those taxes.