The recent revelation that Illinois experienced the largest population loss of any state between July 1, 2016, and July 1, 2017, barely registered as a ripple.
That Illinois continues to lose residents is hardly news, and is barely surprising, because it’s been happening for years — drip by drip, day by day.
That’s scary, too.
Consider: The state lost about 33,700 residents, according to the recent U.S. Census Bureau report. That’s more than half of Normal's population packing up and moving out — which, given the recent tundra-esque weather pattern, would be somewhat understandable.
All kidding aside, the cold is actually a probable factor in our net migration. The Chicago Tribune in 2016 surveyed former Illinois residents and found weather was one of the reasons they moved out — many, it seems, are not that fond of living through four distinct seasons.
Locally, we're holding our own. McLean County's population has stayed relatively stable over the last several years. It rose from 169,572, according to the 2010 census, to an estimated 174,777 in 2013, before settling at 172,418 in 2016, the last year for which data is available.
Illinois is mostly equal in meteorological measures to our neighboring states. But what those states don’t have are the formidable difficulties of Illinois. The Tribune survey identified high taxes, crime, unemployment and financial problems in Springfield as the other influences for residents hitting the road — borne out, in part, by social media comments on any story about Illinois' sad financial state.
To that list we’ll add state government’s weak commitment to education and an alarmingly poor record of helping businesses grow.
We worry about this situation accelerating. We can’t keep following the pattern and expect different results. Every other Midwestern state has seen population growth over the past seven years, but not us.
Illinois ranks No. 1 for outbound moves on the 41st annual National Movers Study conducted by moving company United Van Lines.
That's not a No. 1 we want. (New Jersey, our sister in high taxes and nonfunctional state government, was No. 2.)
Such hemorrhaging eventually raises the prospect of Illinois losing a seat in Congress. Our population is now 12,802,023 — and we’ve lost the fifth-most populous state title to Pennsylvania.
When will it end?
Not before we make serious changes, and it starts with government. Illinois' real estate taxes, income taxes, property taxes and workers' compensation insurance rates are embarrassments, as is the hangover of the two-year budget impasse and rampant deficit spending. It simply costs too much to do business here, especially compared to neighboring states.
We’re looking forward to voters remembering these issues when Election Day rolls around in November.