Currently, the State of Illinois is like an “Island of Dysfunction in the Midwest” - this is not a flattering distinction. Iowa, Indiana, Wisconsin, Kentucky and Missouri have all taken the necessary steps to fix their budgets, enact pension reform, improve their business climate and eliminate deficits. More importantly, each of these states has done this with bi-partisan support or simply working together.
With the 5th largest population in the nation and 20th highest world GDP, an excellent higher educational system and quality infrastructure, there is no sensible explanation for why Illinois continues to not solve our fiscal disaster. As a consequence, we continue to hemorrhage jobs, citizens, educated youth and economic opportunities.
Like many, I grew up in an Illinois that was great in the late 1980s and 1990s when our state led the Midwest in productivity, economic opportunities and innovation. However, we are now near the bottom of almost every major economic category in the country. Illinois has the 50th ranking by all three major bond rating agencies, a $130 billion pension and long-term debt and a $9 billion in backlog of bills.
Our state’s largest private sector employer Peoria’s, own Caterpillar, has in recent years decided to build manufacturing facilities outside of Illinois. Illinois’ chronic inability to solve its fiscal mess will continue to cause companies such as Caterpillar to expand in other states like Missouri, Indiana, Texas or Georgia, unless we make drastic changes.
Recently, I sat on a panel in the Quad Cities with Iowa legislators. They have aggressively gone after systematic problems like deficit spending and reforming pensions. Iowa has both parties working together for the common good of improving their state. That state will run a surplus budget this year and continue to make gains in their private sector. They join Indiana in the surplus category, which recently sent tax rebate checks to their citizens.
In Illinois, we have had 10 years of governmental dysfunction because of a “politics of personality,” greed, a complete lack of political will and unethical politicians.
I, like may others, want to bring Illinois back to the great state that it was and should be. I stand ready to work with my fellow legislators to reestablish Illinois preeminent status. However, this will take tough, courageous decisions and votes. Our state’s citizens deserve better than to be marooned on the Illinois “Island of Dysfunction.”