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Should Chicago become a separate state?

March 4, 2019

State representatives from different ends of Illinois disagree on whether Chicago politicians are pushing Windy City policies onto the rest of the state.

State Rep. Marty Moylan, D-Des Plaines, scoffed at the idea of House Resolution 101, which would urge Congress to make Chicago its own state.

“No, that’s a bunch of B.S.,” Moylan said. “Chicago provides a lot of tax revenues for other parts of the state.”

There’s been lots of debate on the topic throughout the years, but one often-cited study based on a snapshot of the state found that downstate communities received more money from the state government than they contributed in taxes. Others note Chicago takes from the rest of the state, pointing to the hundreds of millions of dollars the state sends to Chicago Public Schools.

Sponsors of HR101 also say Chicago politicians are pushing Windy City policies on the rest of the state with no regard for rural concerns.

Moylan said that’s not true.

“Chicago doesn’t force their policies on downstate. Downstate has their own communities and their own elected officials,” Moylan said.

State Rep. Chris Miller, R-Oakland, is a co-sponsor of HR101. He said the whole idea of what he and other sponsors now are calling the “Fight For 51” is that Chicago politicians keep poking downstate. He said policies from Chicago, and other area politicians, seem to be targeting industries in his area like gun stores.

“They attacked the small businesses that sell personal protection items,” Miller said. “They attacked them with basically a $1,500 tax on them and more regulations.”

Lawmakers in the previous General Assembly passed the Gun Dealer Licensing Act that was similar to a bill former Gov. Bruce Rauner vetoed. Rauner vowed to veto the follow-up bill as well, saying it would burden small businesses and could put some gun stores out of business.

Democrats used a procedural hold to keep the bill through the previous Legislature and sent it to new Gov. J.B. Pritzker, who signed it. Several gun stores have told Illinois News Network they plan to close, in part, because of the added costs of not just the state licensing on top of federal licensing, but from video surveillance regulations that gun stores must comply with.

Miller said the measure takes millions of dollars out of the pocket of the private sector to give to a state government that hasn’t been able to balance a budget in 20 years. He said that was just one poke his constituents feel from Chicago.

Miller rattled off several other policies his constituents don’t like, from increased taxpayer funding for abortions to the state under Pritzker joining the U.S. equivalent of the Paris Climate Accord. He said his constituents aren’t happy with that.

“Because it’s going to make it harder to farm, it’s going to make it harder to dig coal, it’s going to make it harder to drill oil, you know, all of the above,” Miller said. “That was another poke that they did.”

But Moylan said Chicago generates revenue for the entire state.

“As Chicago increases their tax revenue, that’s good for the whole state,” Moylan said.

Regional differences long have factored into politics in Illinois.

A 2018 Paul Simon Institute for Public Policy at Southern Illinois University at Carbondale study found most people in Illinois, no matter what part of the state they live in, don’t feel like they’re getting a fair share of the state’s tax revenue. Furthermore, it found Chicago and the suburban counties in northern Illinois got back less money from the state than they sent to Springfield in taxes while counties in southern Illinois tended to get more money from the state than they contributed. The institute’s report found 19 of Illinois’ southernmost counties received $2.81 in state spending for every dollar they sent to the state. Results were similar in other parts of Illinois, except in the Chicago area, where Cook County received 90 cents on the dollar and the five-collar counties got 53 cents for every dollar they paid the state.

But there’s also criticism Chicago and Cook County get special consideration when it comes to legislation impacting the rest of the state. A recent example is the law enacted last year to usher in 5G, or small cell, technology. That measure has uniform conditions municipalities must follow if they chose to strike deals with cellphone providers to put the small cell technology on public utility rights of way, limiting jurisdictions ability to negotiate pricing. The legislation doesn’t apply to municipalities with more than 1 million people, which Chicago is the only city in Illinois that applies to.

HR101 remains in committee. It’s unclear if it will get a hearing.

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