Illinois is no longer the fifth biggest state in the U.S., surpassed by Pennsylvania.
Chicago Tribune columnist Scott Reeder noted that the Prairie State lost approximately 33,700 people in 2017, the biggest numeric population decrease of any state. And 88,000 people have left since 2013. Meanwhile, neighboring states are gaining residents: 32,811 in Indiana; 14,840 in Iowa; 1,100 in Kentucky; 28,866 in Michigan; 22,356 in Missouri; and 22,566 in Wisconsin.
The continuing population exodus is no great mystery—individuals cite the state’s high taxes, and businesses have trouble staying afloat with the high costs (such as taxes and workers’ compensation) and regulatory climate.
Case in point: Illinois lost out to Alabama when Toyota and Mazda selected a new location for their $1.6 billion assembly line. The Chicago Tribune editorial board pointed out that one big reason that Illinois lost out on this opportunity—despite being a manufacturing state with an automobile building history and having a skilled workforce, a central location, and an excellent transportation network—is the lack of right-to-work laws, in addition to high taxes and regulatory burdens.
“To us, regaining competitiveness means one big thing: State and local officials must acknowledge Illinois is a scary place for many employers,” the editorial board wrote. “They need to the show the world they are ready to fix the problems. Deal with the $130 billion in unfunded state pension liabilities, and make sure everyone knows what the cost to taxpayers will be. Reduce government spending. Cut the regulatory burden.”
As the 2018 legislative session gets underway, small business owners will be watching to see if any progress is made.