Illinois state Rep. Brad Halbrook (R-Shelbyville) marvels at the way Gov. J.B. Pritzker’s alternate universe was on full display during his recent State of the State address.
“Pension reform, ethics reform and property tax reform,” Halbrook told the DuPage Policy Journal of what he thinks it will take to turn Illinois around, noting that the governor spent little to no time discussing any of those issues last Wednesday in Springfield.
“I hear all the time from people who are either planning on leaving Illinois or are actively considering it,” Halbrook added in a post to his website. “People are tired of the bad policies and the lack of concern for what is happening in Illinois, and they are voting with their feet. Illinois has had positive job growth, but this is a direct result of the Trump economy. The Illinois economy could have seen even more growth had our state government done a better job managing the budget and the state economy.”
Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker
Those sentiments were backed up by a recent report by the Illinois Department of Employment Security in conjunction with the Bureau of Labor Statistics that found that Illinois' job creation lagged far behind the national average in 2019. The Illinois Policy Institute notes that last year marked the state's slowest job growth in the first year of any governor's elected term since the start of Rod Blagojevich's second term in 2007.
Illinois ranked 32nd fastest in the U.S. in job creation in 2019, and dropped to 38th fastest when not counting public-sector jobs. Over the long haul, the last two decades have seen the state raise per-capita total spending after adjusting for inflation four times faster than the national average.
“Pension spending is consuming one quarter of the budget, however, the unfunded liability grows at a much faster rate,” Halbrook said. “Everyone agreed that the unfunded pension liability is $130-$140 billion, with some experts pegging it at $240 billion. Until this and other spending reforms are addressed, the taxpayers and property owners will not see any relief.”
While some have credited Pritzker with talking tough about ethics reform in is address, Halbrook argues that still more needs to be done.
“Ethics reform is way overdue,” he said. “The corruption in Illinois is a hidden tax that everyone pays for. The current ‘business as usual’ needs to change, the corruption tax drives up the cost of government for everyone.”
By Halbrook’s estimates, Illinois lost as many as 50,000 residents last year, convincing him that property taxes are as critical an issue to residents as any other.
“We need a hard cap on property taxes, 1 percent of value,” Halbrook said. “Real estate taxes continue to climb when home values decline. A 1 percent cap will help stabilize the market and make home ownership more feasible.”