In just two years, Illinois lost $12.4 billion in Adjusted Gross Income, according to IRS migration data analyzed by public finance watchdog Wirepoints.
The IRS updated its data last month. Wirepoints President Ted Dabrowski said it shows more than 218,000 people left Illinois in 2017 and 2018 combined and more than $12.4 billion in income, among the worst losses of all states.
Among the many areas of analysis included in the Wirepoints report is data that show the incomes of people who leave Illinois are larger than the incomes of people who move into Illinois.
“The average AGI of those who left in 2018 was approximately $85,000, while those who entered the state had incomes of just $66,000,” the Wirepoints reports says.
Dabrowski said the analysis also shows Illinois is losing out to neighboring states.
“The other states, our competing states, our neighboring states, have continued to grow populations, Illinois is the only one that’s shrinking,” Dabrowski said.
U.S. Census data released last week showed Illinois lost more than 51,000 in the 12 months that ended July 1, 2019. That was the largest annual decline in six consecutive years of shrinking population. Altogether, Illinois has lost more nearly 160,000 in population in the past decade, the largest decline of all states. Those leaving range from retirees to blue collar employees with young families.
Margy Robb retired from the state of Illinois five years ago and left from Springfield to live near Macon, Georgia. She misses food like the famous Springfield horseshoes, but that’s about it. She doesn’t like the weather or the politics.
“I’m just glad I left and now you guys have got this governor that’s tax, tax, taxing,” Robb said.
Illinois just increased a bevy of new taxes and fees, including a doubling of the state’s gas tax from 19 cents a gallon to 38 cents a gallon. Robb said it’s much cheaper to get license plate renewals in Georgia than in Illinois. In Georgia, it’s $18. Illinois increased its fee to $151 for typical passenger vehicles at the start of the new year. There were other fee increases as well.
“I would never, ever move back to Springfield,” Robb said, adding that she knows others her age that left the state.
But it’s not just retirees leaving. Shawn Binney, 34, and his wife and child left central Illinois last May for North Carolina. He said his wife found an opportunity in insurance that wasn’t available in Illinois. He said he was able to find a job in his industry making more money.
“Without the education and the other things that other people have, I’m just a blue collar worker. Down here there’s just opportunity upon opportunity upon opportunity and you don’t have that back home,” Binney said.
Binney also said he had several peers from central Illinois leave the past two years whose families are now thriving.
Asked what would bring him back to Illinois, Binney said “a revamp of our government system. Get that governor out of there, mayor out of here, Chicago cut off, the list can go on.”
Last year, U.S. Census data showed Illinois dropped from the fifth to the sixth most populous state, losing an estimated 45,000 people and falling behind Pennsylvania. In 2017, Illinois lost around 40,000 people. In 2016, there was a loss of around 38,000 people. In 2015, there was a loss of around 25,000. In 2014, there was a loss of around 10,000.
While it’s different data, Debrwoski said numbers from the U.S. Census and the IRS both show record population losses for Illinois.
“The policies have to be changed,” Debrowski said. “We can’t keep doing the exact same things we’ve been doing for decades. And it’s time for reforms, otherwise we’re going to lose more and more people and the tax base will shrink which means the tax rates will rise on those who are here and we’ll just be trapped in a vicious spiral.”