By Dan Proft
On March 27, 1984, the Maryland State Senate passed legislation giving the City of Baltimore the power to seize the Baltimore Colts football franchise through the city’s eminent domain powers. On March 29, 1984, the Baltimore Colts piled their belongings into Mayflower trailers and convoyed themselves to Indianapolis under the cover of darkness.
Policy decisions impact people’s lives.
The politicians were the bad guys (if you consider expropriating another’s property poor form) but it was Colts owner Robert Irsay and his co-conspirators in Indianapolis who were vilified by the denizens of Baltimore.
Governor Pat Quinn and Springfield legislative leaders must have been paying attention. They have made Illinois an inhospitable place to start a new business or expand an existing one but ascribe the fault of flight from Illinois to outside interlopers like Texas Governor Rick Perry (and several other governors) who committed the great sin of pointing out the obvious.
In advance of a recent trip to Chicago to speak at a biotechnology conference, Gov. Perry launched a privately-funded ad blitz in Chicago encouraging employers to consider relocating to Texas.
Gov. Perry pointed out inconvenient truths like Texas’ unemployment rate is 50% lower than Illinois’, Texas has no state income tax, and Texas enacted tort reform to level the playing field between employers and rapacious trial lawyers.
Gov. Perry’s message to Illinois businesses was simple: Get Out While There’s Still Time.
Gov. Quinn’s response to Perry was facile: Texas is “water-challenged”. Chicagoland businesses, you are on notice. Pat Quinn brought Lake Michigan into this world (actually it formed at the end of the most recent ice age about 10,000 years before Quinn became governor, but he’s had to deal with enough unpleasant facts so let’s keep that between us), and he can take it out.
Incapable of accepting responsibility, Gov. Quinn focuses instead on creative ways to avoid blame.
The problem for the Chicago Democrat political class is that the capital markets, credit rating agencies, and job creators know precisely who should be held to account for what Illinois has become.
A recent Morgan Stanley poll of high net-worth investors in Chicago found that they were “by far the most bearish nationally on their state economy, with 58% predicting it will be worse at year-end, compared with 22% nationally. The financial well-being of Illinois was cited as a concern by 93% (80% “very concerned’). Nationally, this was not named as a top concern.”
The annual survey of CEOs by ChiefExecutive.net ranked Illinois as the 48th best (or 3rd worst) state in the nation to do business. One CEO said Illinois is one of a few states that has “no clue that someone has to pay the bills and that the taxpayer is going to not take much longer. Even though they have the highest tax rates they have the worst services—go figure.”
Another CEO said, “Illinois—a complete and utter disaster when it comes to fiscal management. The inability to address key issues that are driving debt and instead increase the tax burden on businesses AND residents is mind-boggling.”
Good luck vilifying those messengers, Gov. Quinn.
Perhaps our pandering political leaders in Springfield should stop complaining about other governors wooing Illinois businesses and start emulating them. Perhaps they should stop telling Illinois businesses how much they want them to stay and pursue policies that would keep them here. If they do not, a la the Baltimore Colts, we will find more and more Illinois employers leaving to play for other cities and states.