College sports fans in Central Illinois are familiar with the “war on 74” — the friendly rivalry between the Illinois State University Redbirds and the Bradley University Braves that sends fans along Interstate 74 to cheer their favorite teams.
But Gov. Pat Quinn and Wisconsin Gov.-elect Scott Walker appear on the verge of launching a “war on 94” — and the rivalry isn’t very friendly.
It could be said the Quinn fired the first shot when he invited Milwaukee-area train maker Talgo Inc. to come to Illinois last week. But that was only after Talgo said it would move if Walker goes through with his pledge to kill a high-speed rail project between Milwaukee and Madison.
Walker fired back by saying he would try to lure Illinois companies to the badger state by focusing on what he called massive tax increases proposed by Quinn.
While this editorial board has not been supportive of Quinn’s tax proposal plan without seeing more spending cuts first, the one percentage point increase can’t be categorized as “massive.”
And before Walker puts too much emphasis on Illinois’ income taxes, he should look at his own state, where the individual income tax rate is 4.6 percent to 7.75 percent — higher than what the Illinois individual income tax would be even if Quinn’s proposal is approved.
Of course, a lot more goes into the decision of a business on where to locate than income taxes alone. Various license fees, regulations and other costs — such as workers’ compensation — also enter the equation, along with such factors as transportation, good schools and a well-educated work force.
Forbes magazine looked at many of those factors last month in its “Ranking of Best States for Business and Careers.” Wisconsin ranked 43rd, six places lower than Illinois. But neither ranking is worth bragging about.
As it stands, Walker might be too busy battling with fellow Wisconsinites to open up a Southern Front.
In addition to calling for an end to the high-speed rail project, Walker, a Republican, also has called on Wisconsin Gov. Jim Doyle, a Democrat, to halt contract negotiations with state workers, not implement any changes related to federal health care reform, immediately drop several projects and cease filling any permanent civil service positions.
If Republican Bill Brady had defeated Quinn in the Illinois governor’s race, we wouldn’t be surprised if he had made request similar to Walker’s.
Nevertheless, Walker should focus on his own state’s problems and his transition there, rather than trying to pick a fight with Illinois.
Let the battles between the two states focus on the athletic playing field — between the University of Illinois Fighting Illini and Wisconsin’s Badgers in the Big 10 and the Chicago Bears and Green Bay Packers in the National Football League.