April 8, 2014. Springfield. Presidential candidate Ronald Reagan first asked the question, are you better off now than you were four years ago? Last week, the Chicago Tribune asked the city that same question but looked to a slew of socio-economic indicators comparing 2014 to 2010 to get the answer. What they found was that Illinois has gotten worse in almost every category. Even more revealing, the most devastating policies are longstanding Democratic Party platforms.
Illinois Governor Pat Quinn. Image courtesy of Creative Photography Inc.
In an election year with a near billionaire running for Governor and a half dozen Wall Street news outlets being virtually the only source for voters to get information from, it’s difficult to trust the news stories. And while last week’s Chicago Tribune report on the ‘state of the state’ may be politically motivated to hurt incumbent Democrat Governor Quinn, its findings are based on independent statistics and data from the government itself.
Illinois then and now
Mirroring a similar survey from four years ago, the Tribune editorial staff tells readers they went to great lengths to answer the same questions using the same metrics as they did in 2010. Then, as now, the paper is asking, ‘Is this the state where my family, my company, my career can thrive? Is this the Illinois I want my generation to bequeath to tomorrow's, and to the one after that? Or do I want to send Illinois in a different direction?’
That answer seems obvious to anyone who views the results. Who wants to live in one of the worst states in the nation, and getting worse every year? Even more ominous, decades of government corruption and mismanagement have left hundreds of billions of dollars missing from the state’s treasury and nothing but gloomier skies on the near horizon.
Chicago Tribune study
The below is a sampling of some of the survey’s questions and Illinois’ rank in 2010 compared to its rank today in 2014. We are by no means picking only the worst looking ones. They nearly all present Illinois in the worst possible light (from the Chicago Tribune):
For Business: Gotten Worse (46th to 48th). ‘The Wall Street Journal on March 20 listed Illinois "near the top of any fair survey" for worst-run state in America.’
Job Creation: No Change (48th to 48th). Only Ohio and Michigan are worse.
Unemployment Rate: Gotten Worse (41st to 49th). Illinois has lost over 376,000 net jobs over the last half decade.
Economic Performance: Gotten Worse (38th to 47th). Based on a number of factors including Gross Domestic Product (GDP).
Economic Outlook: Gotten Worse (47th to 48th). Report cites the extraordinarily high ratio of government employees to overall population.
Household Income: Gotten Worse (16th to 17th). Illinois income has dropped compared to the same survey in 2010.
Poverty: Gotten Worse. While Illinois still ranks 27th in the nation as it did in 2010, the percentage of Illinois residents living below poverty has risen from 12.2% to 14.7% over four years.
State Roads: Gotten Better (40th to 34th). Long a source of blatant corruption, the paper points out that Illinois spends almost twice as much to pave one mile of road as the national average.
Number of Governments: Gotten Better, still worst in the nation. Most Americans, including most Illinoisans would laugh if you told them that Illinois residents are governed by 6,963 different governments. But it’s better than 2010 when the number was 6,994.
State and Local Taxes: Gotten Worse (11th to 1st). Unlike most states that pick one main source of tax revenue - sales, income, property - Illinois and local municipalities tax everything.
Public Pension Burden: Gotten Worse (1st to 1st). Illinois has the largest amount of money missing from its government employee pension system, and growing rapidly. Coupled with Chicago’s worst-in-the-nation public pension burden, Illinois residents face an economic ticking time bomb.
Childhood Obesity: Gotten Worse (10th highest to 9th highest).
Education: Gotten Better (38th to 28th). The city of Chicago has made noticeable strides in cleaning up public schools and raising student performance.
Education Spending: Gotten Worse (18th to 22nd). Illustrating one of those crazy conservative slogans that keeps turning out to be true, Illinois fell in education spending compared to the rest of the nation but saw its student performance increase. Illinois public schools spend an average $13,852 per student.
State-Funded Preschool: No Change (1st to 1st). Illinois still ranks first in the number of 3-year-olds enrolled in state-funded preschool programs.
Graduation Rate: Gotten Better (19th to 14th). The state’s high school graduation rate has increased, again mostly due to noticeable increases in Chicago public schools. Schools that recently had graduation rates below 50% now register in the 60’s and 70’s.
Voter Turnout: Gotten Worse (29th to 31st). Even with Illinois’ own Barack Obama on the ballot in 2012, Illinois voter participation rate dropped to 31st in the nation at 58.9%.
As readers can see, Illinois residents saw an improvement in their quality of life in a couple of areas, most notably education. But in the vast majority of other areas, things have most definitely gotten worse over the past four years. That doesn’t bode well for Governor Pat Quinn, who some polls have registered as the most unpopular Governor in the nation. The most recent poll of the upcoming Governor’s race in November comes from yesterday’s St. Louis Post-Dispatch which showed Republican challenger Bruce Rauner leading incumbent Democrat Quinn 43 to 35 percent, with 22 percent undecided.
To read the full ‘state of the state’ survey and report, visit ChicagoTribune.com.
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