Policy Institute, Madigan camp clash on population loss, business climate
Over 110,000 more people left Illinois in a year than arrived here from other states, leading to the highest overall drop in population in the nation, new figures reveal.
Illinois' population dropped by 37,508 people, again the sharpest decline in the country, according to the latest figures from the U.S. Census. Few states saw declines in population and none were more than four figures.
In total, in the 12 months between July 2015 and July 2016, Illinois lost 114,144 people to other states, but saw an increase of just over 30,000 arriving from overseas, leaving the total loss of population, taking into account the difference in births and deaths, at 82,210.
Steve Brown, communications director for House Speaker Michael Madigan (D-Chicago), said it was hard to pin down the reasons for the migration of people out of the state in the absence of any deep analysis and background as to why it has happening.
“I do not think the migration is due to government services as much as some people would like us to believe,” Brown told Dan Proft's "Morning Answer" radio show. “I am not sure it is a dramatic problem.”
Proft cited figures published by the Illinois Policy Institute, which calculated that one person was leaving the state every 10 minutes, leading to a loss of $25 billion in gross domestic product over time.
But Brown said he did not have “anything to compare (the figures) with, so I really do not know. The point is to try and figure out the why and what point is to do with the quality of government services vs. your grandchildren are living somewhere else, or you are retiring and want to live in a warmer climate. No one has ever really done that qualitative analysis of the 'why' part.”
Questioned on the business climate in the state and whether regulatory and tax policy plays a part in the loss of companies and people, Brown said he did not think that was the main reason for firms to decide whether or not to locate to Illinois or elsewhere.
“A lot of them look at the availability and dependability of utilities, where you are geographically in the country, what the transportation is like,” Brown said. “And so as a result, you see companies come here.”
On a weekly basis, corporations are basing their headquarters in Chicago, either moving from another state or from the suburbs, Brown said.
“Is it perfect here? Absolutely not. But is it as awful as some say? No,” Brown said, adding that Chicago is bristling with tower cranes, an indication of just how much building is going on in the city. “I think that if those people thought things were as bad as some people portrayed, these things would not be happening.”
The Illinois Policy Institute, in its analysis of the Census data released last week, was less upbeat about why people are leaving the state.
“Picture the entire city of Peoria packing up and moving across state lines – that’s how severe Illinois’ out-migration was over the last year,” Michael Lucci, the institute’s vice president of policy, said. “People are leaving Illinois at record rates. They’re tired of watching the state’s pension debt climb as lawmakers ignore the problem. They’re tired of an expensive workers’ compensation system and a dangerously ill economic climate. It’s time for lawmakers to make massive reforms and send a strong signal that the direction of Illinois is changing.”
For the third year in a row Illinois is the only Midwestern state that experienced population loss in 2016, the institute said. To combat the trend, the institute advocates for a more business-friendly regulatory and tax climate, said.
Its position, based on research on population trends over the last five years, is that residents are leaving Illinois for states with “lower taxes and better job opportunities.”
Heavy population losses on Census migration reports have always been followed by IRS migration reports showing the people who left took substantial earning power with them, the institute said.