Early this month, when they hit taxpayers with a 32 percent jump in the individual income tax rate, many legislators broke a promise they had made: No more tax hikes without major reforms to help Illinois’ moribund economy. Don’t worry, said Democrats who pushed the tax hike. We’ll get to those reforms soon enough.
But not soon enough, we now see, to keep electronics giant Foxconn from bypassing Illinois to make a jobs-rich investment in southeast Wisconsin. This is a huge win for Scott Walker, the Republican governor of Wisconsin whom Illinois Democrats loathe. Just as this is an embarrassment for Illinois House Speaker Michael Madigan (as also for Senate President John Cullerton).
Once again, the people of Illinois see how Madigan and Cullerton, with their combined eighty-six years in Springfield (just let that sink in, eighty-six years, this is why we need term limits), have left Illinois ill-prepared to compete for 21st-century jobs. Their agenda is about raising taxes, not about delivering those reforms. Every other state on Foxconn’s short list looked better than Illinois by the basic measures of financial stability and pro-growth economies.
No wonder, then, that Illinois is starved for jobs. We expect to learn more in coming days about Foxconn’s thinking. We don’t know details of whatever federal, state and local government incentives lured the company “Beyond the Cheddar Curtain”. And we can’t be certain how many billions of dollars in investment, and how many thousands of jobs, Wisconsin will gain.
But we do know this: Wisconsin boasts a freshly burnished global image. One of the planet’s largest tech firms, with a million workers worldwide, says its search led it to bet a fraction of its future on Wisconsin. Assuming that happens, expect robust economic growth from suppliers, subcontractors, construction companies and other businesses that will serve Foxconn and its workforce.
Cranky Springfield apologists for Madigan and Cullerton will say I am overreaching, that Gov. Bruce Rauner is somehow to blame for losing Foxconn to Wisconsin. Except Rauner has been pushing exactly the kinds of employer-friendly reforms that Madigan and Cullerton have resisted, often to please their allies who lead labor unions.
It’s Madigan (and Cullerton) who’ve set up Illinois to fail in these contests for jobs. Madigan and Cullerton who haven’t sent Rauner a no-gimmicks property tax freeze to even slightly offset the extra $5 billion their income tax hike will gouge from companies and workers. Madigan and Cullerton who won’t make major fixes to a workers’ compensation system that drives away employers. Madigan and Cullerton who can’t deliver significant pension reforms to Rauner’s desk. Madigan and Cullerton who can’t bring themselves to slash that costly roster of seven thousand local governments.
The Chicago Tribune got it pretty good here:
Year upon year, these majority leaders haven’t delivered those sweeping solutions to the people of Illinois — citizens sufficiently exasperated that they fired one governor and hired another to disrupt Madigan and Cullerton’s statehouse. On their watch, Illinois has become a national embarrassment, a failed job creator whose young people are leaving by the tens of thousands.
Just as the Chicago Tribune did, I urge Madigan and Cullerton to run for re-election from their districts if they wish, but to step down from their leadership posts.
Enough of their games. Foxconn’s choice of Wisconsin offers a fresh opportunity to act on what’s wrong with Illinois:
We await the reforms legislators promised, so that Illinois doesn’t keep driving employers to other states.
Just as we hope Michael Madigan and John Cullerton realize they’ve delivered more for the governor of Wisconsin than for the people of Illinois.