Guest commentary: A jobs plan to help fix state of Illinois

Guest commentary: A jobs plan to help fix state of Illinois

By BJARNE JENSEN

Many people believe our fiscal crisis will be solved now that a budget has been approved. But passing a budget this year doesn't solve the underlying problem, it only pushes the crisis off to next year and so on.

The budget crisis is a consequence of 30 years of job losses. As jobs and tax revenues slipped away, the need for, and costs of, social services increased. The underlying problem: There are not enough well-paid jobs in Illinois to fund the increased need for essential state services. The only sustainable budget solution is a huge increase in well-paid jobs and our Jobs Plan, Let's Fix Illinois, can create the thousands of jobs necessary to resolve the structural budget crisis.

Illinois' jobs plan is to resurrect manufacturing. But, new manufacturing facilities will be highly automated and employ few assembly line workers. Attracting manufacturers with cash payments and tax incentives will only further deplete Illinois' scarce financial resources.

Job losses will accelerate. That came into focus at a social event my wife and I recently attended. Several local employers were there, and a common topic of conversation was moving their business out of Illinois. I assume similar conversations can be heard all over the state.

Junk bond status is an underappreciated risk with the potential to sink the state into abject poverty. According to the Policy Institute, interest expense on Illinois debt grew from 2 percent of the budget in 2002 to 11 percent in 2015; billions of dollars needed for essential state services were diverted to pay interest expense. If Illinois bonds are downgraded to junk, interest payments will begin to increase exponentially, leaving less and less money available for essential state services. That is a "death spiral" seldom discussed.

Our jobs plan to globally export Illinois online degree programs will make higher education the new engine of job growth. I know of no product or service, industry or invention, other than exporting online degrees, that can create thousands of well-paying jobs necessary to restore prosperity to Illinois and resolve the budget crisis.

Let's Fix Illinois, our jobs initiative, will host enrollment seminars all over the emerging world, marketing Illinois online programs from 23 public colleges and universities as well as 45 private and religiously sponsored institutions.

We believe Illinois is favorably positioned for higher education to become the state's biggest export; equal to all other exports combined. Within 10 years, we will be enrolling 500,000 students per year, will have generated 392,000 jobs (1st order of job growth), and increased the state's GDP by $58 billion.

There are people who think our jobs plan is too big to be believable. Resurrecting Illinois' economy requires a VERY BIG solution and no one, other than us, have offered a solution big enough to restore prosperity to Illinois. Our website, http://www.LetsFixIllinois.org, describes why our Jobs Plan is reasonable, how we will achieve it, and why it will not happen without us.It is up to the citizens of Illinois to pull the state out of a looming "death spiral" before it is too late. Time is of the essence.

Bjarne Jensen is the founder and president of onlineUSdegrees.org, a 501(c)(3) tax-exempt, nonprofit company whose mission is to restore job growth to the United States.

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