State of Illinois is closing ... one day at a time

State of Illinois is closing ... one day at a time

By Greg Baise

I was traveling recently around Illinois.

What I saw was sad. Very sad.

My trip began in my hometown, Jacksonville, for a memorial service for a mentor of mine which may have set the mood, but as I left town with fond memories of what used to be a thriving community, I was struck with how things had changed. Oh, Jacksonville still has its good points. While some manufacturers are still there, driving out of town it's hard to miss the empty skeleton of the old Anderson Clayton factory.

The town reflects a tired image of an era gone by.

Later in the week I drove to Peoria. I traveled via Route 29, passing the small towns that dot the Illinois River, seeing empty manufacturing facilities, cafes, gas stations and small retail establishments that once thrived.

More towns that reflect a tired image of an era gone by.

When I arrived on the outskirts of Peoria, I passed the full parking lot of the Mossville Caterpillar facility. Finally an image of the way it used to be.

But empty manufacturing and retail facilities on the north side of town quickly snapped my attention back to the new reality. The housing stock is mostly run down or empty. Where did those families go to find their American Dreams?

Arriving downtown, the energy level shot through the roof. A new CAT visitor's center was teeming with guests. CAT's headquarters dominated the skyline and the East Peoria manufacturing hub was just a couple of miles away.

But could all this go away, too?

I know for a fact that CAT executives get so many overtures from other states' governors and economic development departments that they now have a form letter they send in response thanking them for the interest but declining.

For now.

Will that always be the answer? Many scoff at the notion, but don't be so sure. I am only observing and have no knowledge or insight, but when you look at the disappearing manufacturing landscape of Illinois, one cannot know the answer to that question with certainty. Thank goodness CAT wants to stay here in a state that has helped drive others away. And I'm sure the 4,000 Illinois companies who are vendors to CAT thank their lucky stars as well. But how long can good people tolerate bad treatment?

Illinois' unemployment rate is second worst in the nation. The violence and murder rate in neighborhoods that once housed manufacturing facilities in Chicago are national news. Our pension debt is worst in the nation. Our state continues to spend more than it brings in each year. Illinois is the poster child of ruinous economic policies of high taxes, excessive workers compensation costs and regulatory policies that drive employers to look elsewhere.

Politically, we need solutions, not slogans. We cannot afford to wait. We desperately need leadership.

So I ask our candidates for governor on both sides of the aisle:

1. What is your plan to solve the pension debt?

2. Do you support the extension of the temporary state income tax? If not, how do you plan to replace that revenue?

3. How do you plan to improve our state's education program to produce a skilled workforce?

4. What is your plan to bring down worker compensation costs and reform our state's burdensome regulatory climate?

5. How do you plan to stop Illinois from closing one day at a time?

Until we hear specific answers to those issues, Illinois will reflect a tired image of era gone by.

Greg Baise serves as president/CEO of the Illinois Manufacturers' Association.

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Sid Saltfork wrote on October 20, 2013 at 8:10 am

The above opinion was brought to you by the corporate interests that encourage the theft of public employee pensions.

Corporate handouts in the form of tax breaks helped bring Illinois to this financial disaster.  "Pay to Stay" tactics by Sears, and others have led to ADM, and CAT crying "unfair" unless they get their cut also.  The solution to these Fat Cats is to steal the pensions of elderly people who earned them.  It will be up to the Illinois Supreme Court whose justices are "exempt" from "pension reform" to decide if the State of Illinois Constitution is of the same value as used toliet paper; or it is a binding document that provides fairness, and morality.

After the retirees have lost their earned money; the constitution will be meaningless. The corporate interests will continue to reward elected thieves with "campaign donations" (bribes) until not only the retirees are in poverty; but the whole citizenry is in poverty.

Make the temporary tax permanent with it's proceeds dedicated to the debt.  Pass a progress tax on individuals, and corporations.  Stop corporate welfare. 

Orbiter wrote on October 20, 2013 at 9:10 am

I agree with Sid on these points.  It's even worse than "pay to stay", we're at the point of "pay anyway", vis-a-vis Kraft receiving welfare from Champaign, merely to upgrade infrastructure so they can re-occupy property (which they used to own).  Does anyone remember how many millions the city of Urbana paid the owner of the "historic" Lincoln hotel at their somnolent mall for refurbishment? Have any guests actually stayed there yet?  IMO that faux Tudor style abomination should have been razed, not refurbished.  And Champaign paid millions to encourage building of a highrise hotel in the middle of town.  It's no wonder Kraft is trying to line their pockets with taxpayer money. Why not? Every other business is.  (But somehow they still can't manage to provide health insurance for their employees, and object to a $10/hr minimum wage.)  They're shameless.