For many Illinoisans, it's on to Wisconsin
More than 11,000 Illinoisans packed their bags for the Badger State between mid-2015 and mid-2016, according to statistics recently released by the U.S. Census Bureau.
During the decade ending 2015, Wisconsin boasted a net gain of 86,000 former Illinois residents, or an average of 8,600 per year.
But the Dairy State wasn't the only place pulling people out of the Prairie State. In fact, Illinois led the nation in population loss in 2016, according to the survey, as 37,508 residents took off for friendlier climes.
What's worse: The trend is accelerating. The 2015-2016 population loss was 50 percent higher than in 2014-2015.
Cook County accounted for than half of the July 1 2015 to July 1, 2016 loss, at 21,324 people. Only Los Angeles County in California saw more residents leave in the same period.
Michael Lucci, vice president of the Chicago-based Illinois Policy Institute, told the McHenry Times that he’s not surprised at the exodus given the situation in Illinois right now.
“Government in Illinois is totally dysfunctional, ineffective and corrupt, and that all plays a factor in the great flight you’re seeing,” he said.
While Lucci acknowledged there’s a general trend of population movement from the Northwest to the South and West, he said the situation in Illinois goes beyond any trend.
“There’s a large combination of things going bad in the state of Illinois right now,” he said. “Besides citizens in the state having the lowest level of confidence in their politicians in the country, the number one crisis are the rising taxes. Property taxes are high and still rising; it’s becoming dangerous for many people to continue to try to stay in their homes because the taxes are on the verge of becoming too high for them to keep the property.”
The Policy Institute said a negative business climate also contributes to population loss. Lucci said Wisconsin is a right-to-work state, as opposed to having a heavy union influence like Illinois, and some attribute Wisconsin's lower unemployment rate (4 percent vs. 5.7 percent) to its more business-friendly policies.
Those who find employment in Wisconsin also might discover that they keep more of what they earn. Property tax rates in Illinois are among the highest in the country, while those in Wisconsin are the lowest they’ve been since World War II.
While Illinois lawmakers remain mired in budget negotiations, the state continues to rack up large annual deficits. In contrast, Wisconsin recently reported a $21 million surplus.