EDITORIAL: The escape from Illinois

When the progressive political class preaches equality and prosperity, but bleeds productive citizens dry by treating them as little more than human ATMs, there should be little surprise when those same citizens take themselves (and their green) to greener pastures.

Perhaps no state in the nation is seeing a bigger such exodus than Illinois.

While Illinois was once the fifth-most-populous state in the nation, Reason magazine reports that U.S. Census data shows that the state has now been surpassed by Pennsylvania. The greater metropolitan area of Chicago has been hemorrhaging people for two straight years, with the state losing residents for four. On the flip side, all of the states surrounding Illinois saw their populations increase over the past year. According to a report in the Chicago Sun Times, the population decline could wind up costing the state a significant amount of federal funds and perhaps even a seat in the U.S. House.

Illinois is experiencing a self-inflicted storm of fiscal distress. As Reason notes, the state’s unemployment rate is higher than the national average, and it’s losing jobs at a furious pace across all employment sectors. The state’s manufacturing sector had briefly rebounded, but it, too, has begun falling again.

The Sun-Times reports that Chicago resident have faced more than $1 billion in tax hikes in recent years to fund public employee pensions. Last year, Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel added a 30 percent tax on water and sewer bills to raise revenue for the Municipal Employees Pension Fund. He now seeks a 28 percent increase in a monthly tax on phone bills in order to fund the Laborers Pension fund. Lawmakers have pushed soda taxes and taxes for indoor plumbing, and the city is also looking to aggressively issue fines for everything from illegal panhandling and illegal parking to noise violations, street peddling, failing to shovel snow and operating a business without a license.

While state income taxes in llinois don’t reach they level impose in states such as New York and California, that’s not for a lack of trying. The state raised its rate by 32 percent over the summer, and Democrats want to even more progressive tax rates to pay for all the goodies they’ve promised to Big Labor in order to grease their re-elections.

Reason reports that a study by New World Wealth shows that working-class people aren’t the only ones leaving Chicago. Millionaires are, as well, making it the only city in the nation experiencing such a problem.

Illinois is a financial basket case — which is what you get when you combine political patronage with powerful public-sector unions that control leftist politicians. The state should be a case study for other jurisdictions on how not to conduct public policy. After all, who will pay the bills when the taxpayers flee?

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