The Illinois State Fair traditionally has been an unofficial kickoff for fall election campaigns, but it also has proven to be a place to see how candidates play on the state’s political and geographic diversity that often represents how Illinois votes.
Case in point: When Republican Gov. Bruce Rauner spoke before the fair in Downstate Springfield to the party’s State Central Committee and its county chairs, the largely Democratic city of Chicago was among his targets for criticism.
“Everything’s on the line,” the governor said. “We have the threat of complete hostile takeover of our state by the corrupt Chicago Machine. That’s what’s at stake right here.”
Playing regional politics in Illinois is nothing new for Rauner or other candidates over the years, leaning on stereotypes cast decades ago that can make people living outside Chicago feel they are being shortchanged when it comes to government services and the use of their tax dollars.
* Scroll all the way to the bottom of that story and you’ll see a reference to this recent Paul Simon Public Policy Institute research…
The research shows the south region receives $2.81 in state funds for every $1 generated. The central Illinois region of 50 counties receives $1.87 back for every $1.00 sent to Springfield. All of the downstate regions receive more from the state budget than they pay in taxes. By comparison, Cook County receives 90 cents for every $1, and the suburban counties only 53 cents for every $1 generated.
* From a recent Champaign News-Gazette editorial…
A 2017 Paul Simon Public Policy Institute survey found that downstaters especially thought state government ignored them. Asked “How much attention do you feel state government pays to what the people in your community think when it decides what to do,” 73 percent of downstaters replied “not much.” That was a marginally higher level of alienation than Chicagoans (72 percent) or suburbanites (67 percent).
If any region should feel alienated from state government, it’s the suburbanites, according to the research. They get back about 53 cents for every dollar sent to state government.
Ironically, it’s traditionally been downstate lawmakers who push frivolous notions to separate Chicago or Cook County from the rest of the state. The most recent is a resolution introduced late in May — long after the legislative deadline for consideration of such measures — that called on Congress to declare Chicago the 51st state and break it off from the rest of Illinois. The resolution’s sponsors included state Reps. Reggie Phillips and Brad Halbrook, both of whom represent counties with state universities and community colleges.
* One Illinois’ Ted Cox…
Sometimes, what’s required is the compassion, understanding, and empathy to accept and act on those facts.
Chicagoans and suburbanites need to comprehend that the rest of the state not only has much to offer culturally, agriculturally, and aesthetically — in monuments like “The Hewer” in Cairo and in the vast green expanse known as the Garden of the Gods in Shawnee National Forest — but it also needs that added assistance because it doesn’t have the resources the city and suburbs have at hand.
And residents in the rest of the state need to know when they’re being played by politicians lying to them that Chicago is a behemoth taking everything that’s best in Illinois and hoarding it away. It’s simply not factually true.
Meanwhile, suburbanites, who might be the first to grant that they have the best of both worlds, need something more than just recognition to keep them from feeling no better than a cash cow being milked by the rest of the state.