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Illinois: The Race to the Bottom

February 13, 2013 3 minute Read by Matthew Denhart

On September 18, 2012, the 4% Growth Project and the Illinois Policy Institute hosted a conference in Chicago, Illinois, on tax competition and economic growth. The Illinois Policy Institute produced a brilliant fact sheet for the event, showing that Illinois ranks 48th out of the 50 states in economic performance. The fact sheet is reproduced below.  Illinois’ state debt:

  • Illinois' total state debt is $271 billion
  • Illinois' state debt has ballooned to $51,000 per household
  • Illinois has roughly $8.5 billion in unpaid bills
  • Illinois will spend more on pensions than on education by 2016

Illinois’ economic performance:

  • 39 states have a lower unemployment rate than Illinois
  • It will take 43 months for Illinois’ unemployment rate to recover to its pre-recession low, given the current pace of job creation and assuming no growth in the labor force
  • Unemployment in Chicago is stalled at 10.5%
  • Illinois is 47th in job growth
  • Illinois is 48th in economic outlook
  • Illinois is 48th in economic performance
  • Illinois is 48th in net domestic migration
  • Illinois is 48th in average workers’ compensation costs
  • The rate of entrepreneurship in Illinois has been below the national average every year since 1996, with the exception of 2001
  • Chicago is tied with Detroit for the worst entrepreneurship rate among the 15 largest metropolitan areas in the country
  • Illinois has had 12 credit downgrades since 2008
  • Illinois has more units of local government than any other state in the nation
  • Illinois hiked state income taxes by 67%
  • Rate of entrepreneurship below national average last 15 of 16 years
  • Worst credit rating in the nation
  • Illinois has had 12 credit downgrades since 2008
  • Illinois' unemployment rate is 9.1%
  • Illinois unemployment has increased for three straight months

Illinois’ pensions:

  • Illinois has the worst funded pension in the nation
  • Illinois' pension inaction costs the state $18 million per day
  • Illinois pension funds need 19 percent annual investment returns in order to pay for the promised benefits

Illinois’ health care:

  • Medicaid reimbursement rates are among the worst in the nation

It's no surprise Illinois loses 1 resident every 10 minutes.


Matthew Denhart
Matthew Denhart

Matthew Denhart is an expert on immigration policy and is the author of the Bush Institute’s America's Advantage: A Handbook of Vital Immigration and Economic Growth Statistics, now in its third edition. He currently serves as executive director of the Calvin Coolidge Presidential Foundation and is a founder of the Coolidge Scholars Program which provides full-ride merit scholarships to America's most promising college students. A summa cum laude graduate of Ohio University, Denhart has written and spoken widely on a variety of policy topics including the economics of higher education, labor, and taxes. He has contributed articles to numerous national publications including The Wall Street Journal, Forbes.com, CNN Opinion, and Bloomberg View. 

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