By Pat Hughes

Recently, Michael Lucci, Director of Jobs and Growth at Illinois Policy Institute, reported that since Mike Madigan has assumed the title of House Speaker, the state has seen “a historic out-migration of Illinoisans.” In every year during the period from 1985-2010, Illinois has lost more people than it has gained. Even more troubling, the average person who leaves Illinois earns more money than the average person who comes into Illinois.

During Madigan’s speakership, Illinois has sustained a net loss of at least 1.3 million people to other states.

Why? Look no further than the state government run by Madigan and Governor Quinn. During the spring legislative session this year alone, Springfield politicians have proposed a progressive income tax, a Millionaire’s Tax, and have pushed to make 2011’s temporary income tax permanent. Economy and job killers all. All the while, Illinois has the highest unemployment rate in the Midwest and the third highest in the country.

It’s clear that the establishment in Springfield does not serve the interests of families and businesses who play by the rules in this state – the people who finance state government, yet receive very little back from it in terms of benefits or services. It’s easy to understand why families are struggling and businesses are fleeing the state.

Springfield’s tax-and-spend policies have driven our business climate into the ground. Instead of learning from the missteps that led Illinois into insolvency, inefficiency and unreliability, those who have ferociously defended the status quo are now doubling down on their failed tax policies against a backdrop of high employment. We need to cut the state income tax and state corporate tax in half, as well as eliminate the state estate tax, which is a tax on businesses. It’s also time to impose some discipline on state government. We’ve learned the hard way that politicians’ promises to rein in run-away spending are not kept and should not be trusted. We must implement statutory spending caps, permanently restraining the public sector from crowding out private sector investment. This means we need to return spending to 2011 levels and then only allow for year-over-year growth equal to inflation plus population growth.

We need to replicate the successes we see in other states. In Indiana, Governor Mitch Daniels took the important step of ensuring that long-term expenses match long-term revenues, and built on his predecessors’ work to ensure that government outcomes were measured, and incentives for better performance were put into place. Arkansas also prioritizes expenditures as part of its legislative process, and if there’s no money left, the lower priorities do not get funded. Governor Dave Heineman of Nebraska, which runs on a budget surplus, advises simply, “We don’t spend money we don’t have. It keeps you out of trouble every single day.”

The November 4 election is about identifying and electing leaders who will advocate for policy choices that implement necessary reforms and focus on leveraging Illinois’ competitive advantages as a means to economic growth. It won’t be easy. Illinois’ economic crisis – and the attempt to double down on the failed policies that led us into it – should remind the people of Illinois that the other side never rests. For that reason alone, we must not back down.

We have a duty to remind our friends and foes alike that the interests of taxpayers and businesses – including economic opportunity, quality of life and fiscal responsibility – still have a voice in Illinois.

And if we are successful, we will again make Illinois the destination for families and businesses that it has the great potential to be.

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