Love Letters and Hate Mail, June 15, 2017 Edition

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Editorial: Illinois’s Fiscal Black Hole: The Enemy Is Us


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I thought your most recent editorial about the fiscal struggles of Illinois was interesting.
Bill Atkinson

I thought your most recent editorial about the fiscal struggles of Illinois was interesting.

Having been a full-time freelance business-magazine writer for forty-one years, and a faithful reader of the Nightlife ever since the days you used to hand out two-sided flyers of the fledgling publication decades ago in person at the Sunset concerts, I can share some additional insights.

You mention what seem to be the two primary options that Illinois has— raise taxes or cut services.

Unfortunately, most Illinoisans have been lulled into believing that these are the only two options.

The vast majority of other states, however, focus all of their attention on a third option— one that actually works— attracting new businesses to their states and facilitating the growth of existing businesses.

When a state has a thriving business economy, its coffers increase significantly as a result of more income tax, more corporate tax, more property tax, more sales tax, and more of every other kind of taxes.

In fact, the states that have been the most successful in attracting new businesses and building a thriving business environment are states that end up increasing services to their citizens, while at the same time cutting income taxes, sales taxes, and property taxes, simply because they are pulling in so much money from all of the new and growing businesses that they don’t need the excess. And, of course, reducing the tax rate attracts even more businesses to their states.

In sum, the base of any economy is business. State governments live and die based on the strength of business in those states.

For years, I have written for a number of magazines that provide national businesses with the lay of the land in terms of which states are the most business-friendly. All of these magazines, as well as a number of other national magazines, consistently rank Illinois at the very bottom of the list (anywhere between forty-eight and fifty) in terms of business-friendliness.

I also spend a lot of time interviewing national consultants whose job it is to recommend certain states to businesses that are looking to expand or relocate. I never tell them I am from Illinois, of course. And so, any time I asked them about the various states, they provide me with a very objective list of pros and cons that those states offer to businesses— mostly pros.

Yet, every time I ask them about Illinois, every one of them starts out by laughing— and I mean laughing heartily.

We now have a governor who is attempting to create a business-friendly state, but the legislature is bound and determined to keep Illinois as business-unfriendly as possible.

As a result, new businesses simply are not moving into the state, and more and more businesses are moving out. Illinois has become an “economic slum”— and is unique in the nation in this regard.

And, as a result, Illinois is left with only the two evils— cut services or raise taxes.

Bill Atkinson