Internal Revenue Service numbers show residents are fleeing Illinois and taking their money with them.
No one likes to be spurned. So when the topic of conversation turns on one statewide website to out-migration from the state of Illinois, the natives not only get restless, they get angry at those moving out.
“Who needs them?” is a common response.
The departed are denounced as greedy and disloyal, unworthy of being residents of the Land of Lincoln.
People, of course, move from one state to another for a variety of reasons. They’re seeking better employment opportunities, moving to better climates or closer to relatives. But people also are leaving Illinois because they’ve had enough of higher income and property taxes and fear, quite reasonably, that Illinois’ tradition of corrupt and dysfunctional government will never change.
Out-migration, however, represents more than a public relations black eye. It also makes life tougher for those who remain because there are fewer people to pay for the constantly rising cost of government at all levels.
Recently released 2016 data from the Internal Revenue Service reveals that 250,000 residents left Illinois that year, while just 165,000 moved in. Those who left took $11 billion in adjusted gross income, while new state residents added $6.3 billion to the tax till.
Altogether, the state lost 85,000-plus residents in 2016 and nearly $5 billion in adjustable gross income. The loss in adjustable gross income equates to a decline of more than $100 million in tax revenue.
The $100 million is bad, but circumstances actually are worse because that number doesn’t include other losses in taxes the departed pay, including sales taxes.
Wirepoints analysts Ted Dabrowski and John Klingner consider state population numbers to be analogous to the canary in the coal mine.
“There’s perhaps no indicator more damning of a state’s failure to govern than the flight of its residents to other states,” they wrote in a recent analysis. “People of every stripe are leaving Illinois. Old and young, rich and poor. They are going to warm states and cold states, big states and small states.”
How does Illinois’ loss in adjusted gross income compare to other states? Only New York, which lost $8.4 billion in adjusted gross income, is worse.
Unfortunately, 2016 was not an isolated example.
Illinois, the sixth largest state with a population of roughly 12.5 million, has suffered a net loss of 1.5 million people since 2000.
Meanwhile, Florida came out on top of the adjusted gross income game, gaining $17 billion. Other winners were North Carolina, South Carolina, Washington and Texas, each gaining more than $2 billion in adjusted gross income.
These numbers must be reversed if Illinois is ever going to be a prosperous state again. But how?
That remains to be seen. While some Illinois residents vote to leave with their feet, others cast their ballots for elected officials who barely acknowledge this problem.
How much worse does it have to get before they do?