Pritzker economic plan comes with tall order
Five-year blueprint follows AARP poll reflecting increasing dissatisfaction with life, realities in Illinois
Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker’s five-year economic plan is aimed at bolstering the state’s flagging economy, workforce and population simultaneously.
Its release comes on the heels of a major study of 1,200 Illinois voters by the AARP that suggests an overwhelming majority of Illinoisans are angry about the state’s financial standing, so much so that they’re strongly considering packing their bags and leaving the Land of Lincoln.
Part of our job here at the Center is bringing data and talking points home and putting them in a context that matters to you. This week, we take a look at public sentiment as Pritzker launches his ambitious agenda, and what it entails.
“Our state’s deep fiscal problems, including the $6 billion unpaid bill backlog, $130 billion pension deficit, and near-junk level credit rating hurts Illinoisans of all ages on a daily basis. To display the true impact of the state’s troubling finances, it was important this poll reveal how important solving these problems is to all Illinoisans of all ages,” AARP Director Ryan Gruenenfelder said.
Last fall, AARP conducted a survey of registered Illinois voters ages 25 and up to gauge public opinion of our state’s government. The majority of the 1,200 respondents was displeased with Illinois’ current fiscal condition and believed addressing the growing pile of state debt should be a top priority for any administration in Springfield. The study expounded on these sentiments, as well as a number of others.
- On a scale of 1 to 5, with five being “extremely angry,” 65 percent selected a 4 or 5 when asked their opinion about the state’s financial standing. There was some difference among political parties, but a majority of 4s and 5s existed across the spectrum.
- No surprise, there was a significant shared feeling among voters of all political denominations (70-74 percent among Democrats, Republicans and Independents) that things in the state were going in the wrong direction. Democrats - this survey being conducted at the end of GOP Gov. Bruce Rauner’s term - were more likely than Republicans and Independents by roughly 10 percentage points each to say that the economy had grown worse both for the state and themselves personally.
- Another 84 percent of respondents said addressing unpaid bills and debt as well as underfunded pensions should be a priority for the Governor and General Assembly in their budget process.
Death and taxes
- 79 percent shared that they knew someone who was considering moving out of our state for one of three reasons: lower taxes elsewhere, lower cost of living or better run state or local government.
- The majority of poll respondents said they were not confident that the budget agreement reached at the end of session in 2018 would reduce fiscal problems. When considering solutions to this problem,
- Most respondents (59 percent) said they support converting Illinois’ income tax system from its current flat rate to a graduated structure. 57 percent of respondents were in favor of both increasing revenue and cutting services.
- Respondents at the same time were strongly opposed (71 percent) to instituting a retirement tax. Another 69 percent were supportive of a long-term fiscal plan put forth by the governor and the legislature.
Pritzker’s report, released late last week, serves as a blueprint and is not binding.
The plan put out by the state’s Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity has three main objectives: To lay down a foundation for long term growth; reduce the equity gap; and attract more businesses to Illinois.
- $420 million to expand broadband across the state, particularly in southern Illinois
- Ensuring growth in seven industries - agribusiness, energy, information technology, life science and healthcare, manufacturing and transportation and logistics
- Doubling the amount of MAP grants awarded to college students by 2023
- Incentivizing more electrical vehicle charging stations
- Creating more businesses in communities of color
- Revitalizing downstate Illinois
- Expanding business support services for farms through the University of Illinois extension program.
- Starting a Teachers’ Corps among retired manufacturing workers and managers
- Establishing two manufacturing training academies at downstate community colleges and eliminating residency requirements for those programs so any state resident can participate
- Administering $50 million in community healthcare construction grants
The AARP’s Gruenenfelder noted that after the survey revealed the four top issues facing the Governor and the legislature, it made clear for the need for a comprehensive, equitable plan possible for to be implemented that “will restore our state to full fiscal solvency, provide tax relief, stimulate our economy and control spending while ensuring key services are properly funded.”
Illinois, the report states, “has the fundamental building blocks of a thriving, inclusive community. Yet we can do more to bring prosperity and opportunity to every corner of Illinois. When Illinois governments, nonprofits, educational institutions and business institutions come together to execute the right plan, the possibilities for our economy are endless.”
*Meghan Coleman contributed
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