By Matthew Besler

Money walks and opportunity talks. Illinoisans are racing across the border into Indiana at an unprecedented rate. Illinois Policy Institute recently reported that “Illinois had a net loss of 4,100 people and $76 million of annual income to Indiana in 2010 alone, the most recent year of Internal Revenue Service data.” According to IRS data, Indiana gained 105,000 people and $2.2 billion in annual income from Illinois alone from 1995-2010.

The reason families leave Illinois for states like Indiana is because those states have embraced a free enterprise system, which encourages liberty, rewards success and gives people dominion over their own lives. The government provides core services, and then gets out of the way.

This is not the case in Illinois. State government is overbearing, coiling itself around everything from education to workers compensation to election outcomes.  According to a recent survey by, small businesses in Illinois are feeling the pain. Small businesses gave Illinois an F for business friendliness, based on 10 different metrics. Indiana received a B-.

The survey was backed by hard evidence. State governments make key decisions that determine whether their state will grow, stagnate or (as with Illinois) deteriorate. Rankings by startup costs, business tax environment, regulatory burden, debt and liabilities, workers’ compensation costs, tort liabilities and labor law show that Indiana is embracing opportunity across the board, while Illinois lawmakers keep the state stuck in the mud.

At the Illinois Opportunity Project (IOP), we recognize that Springfield’s Tax and Spend policies have driven our business climate into the ground. We understand that in order to return the state to solvency, we must 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.  We know that the state must implement statutory spending caps and return spending to 2011 levels, only allowing for year over year growth equal to inflation plus population growth.

Indiana provides an excellent illustration of a successful route to fiscal solvency. 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.

In Wisconsin, Scott Walker offers an important example of labor reform that works. Walker’s reforms not only are saving money, they’re doing so with little disruption to services. Wisconsin’s labor reforms have also benefitted education, as upon their implementation no teachers were laid off in Beloit and Lacrosse; Eau Claire saw a reduction of two teachers, while Racine and Wausau each laid off one. The Wauwatosa School District, which faced a $6.5 million shortfall, anticipated slashing 100 jobs—yet the new pension and health contributions saved them all. By contrast, in Chicago, we just witnessed CPS lay off 1,100 teachers and staff.

Abraham Lincoln stated, “The dogmas of the quiet past are inadequate to the stormy present. . . . We must think anew and act anew.”  Our problems can only be solved by thinking about them and approaching them differently; implementing policy reforms and leveraging our competitive advantages to keep families together and grow our economy.

The Illinois Opportunity Project understands the only path to that reform-focused legislation is via legislators who, like Mitch Daniels and Scott Walker, have the courage to champion the necessary free-market policies and advocate principles that are consistent with a liberty agenda.

In addition to supporting a liberty and reform focused policy agenda, the Illinois Opportunity Project offers informed speakers to interested organizations around the state; issues action alerts on policy initiatives to the public; and informs the public at large about legislation.

IOP has begun to reshape the view of liberty and reform-minded polices by holding legislators accountable for their floor votes.

I invite you to join our Policy Revolution at We can walk opportunity, and the money that inevitably follows it, back into Illinois.

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