The Wall Street Journal Editorial Board published an editorial in December 2021 titled, “The Fleeing Young of Illinois.”
It’s worth a read and a hard look in the mirror for all Illinoisans, but especially for our progressive Democrat friends. The editorial discusses the reasons people, particularly young people, flee Illinois at such an incredible rate.
Illinois is one of only three states, including West Virginia and Mississippi to have lost population since 2010. I do not think the editorial will come as a surprise to those of us who live in areas along our state’s borders. Those who choose to live in northwest Illinois know that we have a longer commute to get to many of Illinois’ assets, particularly those that come with big city living.
We are certainly willing to compromise some conveniences because of the sheer beauty and slower pace of rural living. Most of us stay here because of family and tradition. Our region may seem imperfect to outsiders, but there is something to be said for driving by the church each day where your grandparents got married or playing on the same ball diamond that your father played on as a child.
These powerful memories and traditions tug at our heartstrings in all the best ways. Those who leave for greener pastures, still harken back to these traditions and memories in repose and long for home.
However, the editorial rightly points out that many of our kids and grandkids are not willing to compromise in the ways the state of Illinois has driven them to have to compromise to make the too-often illogical decision to stay in Illinois.
According to the WSJ, Illinois’ median age has increased from 36.6 to 38.8, making it one of the fastest aging states. Even states with a higher median age, like Florida, gained young people, while Illinois saw a decline in those aged 25-39. Some go to college and don’t come back — we call this “brain drain.”
Others left because of high taxes. According to Wirepoints, each Illinois household is on the hook for $110,000 in public employee retirement debt, up from $90,000 in 2019. Those states in similar positions, even in the Midwest, are still gaining young, working-aged people to help eventually pay for their debts.
That’s not the case in Illinois, though. A shrinking population of prime-age working people along with attractive reasons for seniors to stay (like, Illinois’ only competitive advantage, no tax on retirement income), has set into motion a fiscal time bomb that will loom over our tax base for many years to come.
In a time where families are having to keep tight household budgets due to inflation fueled by our failed federal government policies, state government should tighten its belt.
Progressive politicians must stop spending your money irresponsibly and we certainly should not be creating new programs that are unsustainable when COVID dollars run out.
The fact that Illinois loses one seat in our federal representation in the redistricting battle, now settled, is only a symptom of the greater problem. The State of Illinois has a gaping wound created by fiscal mismanagement. Neither band-aids nor happy talk will make the bleeding stop.
Our fiscal priorities should reflect an honest notion to address cost-drivers (like taxpayer funded healthcare costs and exploding pensions) while working our way out of the debt-hole of which we have found ourselves at the bottom.
If we don’t fix this problem in this generation than these local landmarks and traditions so meaningful to us all will only be cast as permanent in our memories alone.
State Rep. Andrew Chesney, R-Freeport, represents the 89th District.
This article originally appeared on Journal Standard: Welcome to Illinois: Stay for family values, leave for high taxes