Tales from the Illinois Exodus–Part One

By John Ruberry

If  you are looking for bad news then Illinois is just the place for you.

What I’m writing here at Da Tech Guy will probably become a series.

Illinois’ population has been shrinking for five straight years. After the 2020 Census the Prairie State will lose one congressional seat. And it’s possible that Illinois could be the only state to shed two House districts in the next enumeration go-around.

What else?

Illinois’ new Democratic governor, JB Pritzker, is proposing a massive tax hike that is in fact a public worker pension bailout. Not that Pritzker doesn’t have a laundry list of liberal proposals, including what he deems as affordable child care, paid parental leave, more money for teachers’ unions–oops, I mean education–and higher gasoline taxes. The scion of the Hyatt Hotels founder, who used non-union laborers to rehab his Chicago mansion, has even toyed with the idea of a per-mile driving tax.

Pritzker has already signed into law a bill that will raise Illinois’ minimum wage to $15 in 2025. That “living wage” is already hurting workers in New York City. And it’s harming businesses. You know, those places that hire workers.

Let’s move to the local level of Illinois. Property taxes are out of control, in essence becoming not only a second mortgage for homeowners, but a millstone that destroys a value of a home. And of course a home is often the largest investment most people possess.

As with the state, obscenely underfunded local government public worker pension plans are the main driver into these fiscal ditches. Buying a home is a vote for confidence in a community. And confidence is lacking in the Land of Leaving. Oops, make that the Land of Lincoln.

Here is an example courtesy of WestCook News:

IRS lawyer-turned insurance CEO Vikki L. Pryor paid $757,000 for a four-bedroom, four-bath home at 1001 N. Euclid Ave. in northeast Oak Park in August 2005, or $975,657 in today’s dollars.

The home sold on Feb. 26 for $590,000, or 40 percent less than what she paid for it.

Pryor’s property taxes rose over the same period. They were $9,249 when she bought the home in 2005, an effective tax rate of 0.9 percent.  Last year, they were twice that — $20,652, or 3.5 percent of her sale price.

All told, Pryor paid $207,132 in property taxes over 13 years of ownership.

WestCook News is a project of WIND radio host Dan Proft. On his show earlier this month he rattled off about a dozen of similar stories from all over the Chicago area, most of them in Cook County.

Sure, for the most part Oak Park is wealthy. What about poor areas, such as Maywood?

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In fact it seems that the communities with large minority populations in the western and southern Cook County suburbs, which vote almost uniformly Democratic, are getting clobbered the most by runaway property taxes in Illinois.

What about Illinois’ public universities? Earlier this month Western Illinois University, citing a decline in enrollment (translation: lack of confidence in Illinois) and declining state revenue (translation: that money went for pensions) announced 132 layoffs, which include eight faculty members.

In Eureka–where Ronald Reagan attended college–there is a family who started a GoFundMe page because of “Illinois’ history of corrupt government and never ending increases on taxes.” True, that. And they continue, “It’s hardly possible for middle income class to make it anymore. People are leaving Illinois by the tens of thousands, which is in turn increasing [the] tax load on the remaining citizens.”

Back to Pritzker.

His income tax hike proposal requires an amendment to the state constitution because it will switch Illinois from a flat income tax rate state to one with graduated rates. The middle class will get a tax cut, Pritzker promises. Yes, it’s true! My rate will drop from 4.95 percent to–wait for it–4.90 percent! My savings won’t even be enough to pay for movers to haul me out of ILL-inois. Nor will it likely cover increases to my property taxes.

What about Illinois’ rich? As they are already doing in New York state, the Wall Street Journal–paid subscription required–is predicting wealthy Illinoisans will understate their earnings or move elsewhere. Which of course means less revenue in both cases. That family from Eureka knows more about the effects of tax increases than Pritzker.

I will vote against the income tax amendment when in appears on the ballot next year. Illinois will crash and burn–and the sooner that happens the better it will be. The cure will come–like an alcoholic who totals yet another car–when complete defeat is admitted.

And the remedy will arrive when Illinoisans vote on a different amendment–to eliminate the pension guarantee clause in the state constitution.

UPDATE March 24: There is a Part Two.

John Ruberry is a fifth generation Illinois resident who regularly blogs from Cook County at Marathon Pundit.