In 2011, Doug Oberhelman, then-CEO of Caterpillar, wrote a letter to the then-governor. Pat Quinn warns that Illinois business politics will eventually force companies like his to leave Illinois.
“In short, when Caterpillar and most other companies are trying to get a new plant in the United States, Illinois is not in the running for such projects. It doesn’t have to be like this. … I want to stay here. But as the leader of this business, I have to do what’s right for Caterpillar when making investment decisions,” Oberhelman wrote.
We know the rest of the story. Those warnings were ignored, and this year Caterpillar announced it was relocating to Texas. Other companies including Tyson, Citadel, Boeing, FTX and Highland Ventures have also announced they will be leaving Illinois.
It’s easy. Bad policies lead to bad results. For example, our governor has locked down the economy during the pandemic. We have lost countless small businesses because of his actions. It will take a long time to recover from his poor decision to shut down small businesses as about 14% of the jobs lost to the lockdown have not yet returned.
Our state continues to shrink in population. We’ve lost population for the last eight years in a row. According to US Census data, Illinois lost 113,776 people between July 1, 2020 and July 1, 2021. In perspective, this corresponds to the loss of the entire population of the city of Springfield in one year. Consider that no other Midwestern state has lost more than 17,000 people over the same period.
We’re losing businesses. we lose people What are our leaders doing about it?
The answer is, no thing. You won’t even consider the question.
The Democrats and various members of the media like to brand my colleagues and I as “extremists,” but the truth is that we ran for office because the current leadership couldn’t run a lemonade stand in our state, let alone a state that size of Illinois. We pay some of the highest taxes in the country, and all we have to show for it are bad roads, failing schools, crumbling state parks, and incompetently run government agencies. Don’t forget all the Democratic senators and state officials being charged with bribery – yes, bribery – the kind we learned about in elementary school.
Our taxes are too high. The state’s energy policy makes the utilities too high. We have too many business rules and we have some of the highest worker compensation costs in the country. We will continue to be unable to compete with surrounding states as long as we ignore economic concerns. We can fix that. We just need the political will to do it.
Illinois is in the center of the country. There’s no reason for Illinois to lose business. Bad leadership has created a hostile business environment that the business community has been warning us about for years. If we’re to become a destination for jobs and opportunity, we need to heed job creators’ warnings and implement better policies. Doing the same thing we’ve always done will only lead to the same failed outcomes and more exit headlines.
It’s time for Democrats and Republicans to work together to bring jobs and opportunity back to Illinois, and it can’t happen fast enough.
• State Assemblyman Chris Miller, R-Robinson, representing the 110th District. He can be reached at www.ilhousegop.org/millercontact.