Friday, February 08, 2013

State Sen. LaHood on Illinois: "An island of dysfunction in the Midwest"

Caterpillar plant, Peoria Heights, IL
Illinois state Sen. Darin LaHood (R-Dunlap)--yes, he's the son of Obama's Transportation Secretary--called the Prairie State "an Island of dysfunction in the Midwest" on Illinois Review today.
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.
Meanwhile, the Democrats, who control both chambers of the General Assembly and the governor's mansion--continue to kick the pension can down the road.

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