FILE - Illinois State Capitol

The Illinois State Capitol in Springfield, Illinois.

A group of downstate Republicans who want to separate Chicago from Illinois said they are encouraged by the new Chicago mayor’s push to end corruption in the Windy City.

They’re not ending their effort to split Illinois into two states, but the group, led by state Rep. Brad Halbrook, sent Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot an open letter praising her for wanting to root out corruption in Chicago.

“It’s no secret about corruption in Chicago and how that filters down through the rest of the state,” Halbrook said in an interview. “So if she wants to have a conversation on how to deal with that, we think that’s an awesome place to start.”

“For decades, Chicago’s corruption has been scaled statewide as the politically connected from Chicago have ruled our state and gamed the system to get rich,” the letter said.

State Reps. Halbrook, R-Shelbyville; Darren Bailey, R-Xenia; Chris Miller, R-Oakland; Blaine Wilhour, R-Beecher City; and Dan Caulkins, R-Decatur, signed the letter.

“We are encouraged that your election brings the opportunity for reform,” the letter said. “Moreover, we hope we can agree on policies that allow Chicago to solve the City’s ‘dire’ financial problems without the state bailing them out while liberating the rest of Illinois from policies that compound the challenges our communities face.”

While Lightfoot’s administration has yet to respond, state Rep. LaShawn Ford, who made an unsuccessful bid for Chicago Mayor, said the push to end corruption is something he supports.

“Because it does cost taxpayers of Illinois and of the city [of Chicago] a great deal of their hard-earned money,” Ford said. “So we have found common ground with the south to root out corruption throughout the entire state.”

Ford said he is opposed to the idea of separating Chicago from the rest of Illinois. However, Ford said he was encouraged with what he read in the letter from Republicans.

Halbrook’s letter urged Lightfoot to work with state lawmakers on reforms to end corruption, reduce unfunded mandates, respect the culture of communities outside of Chicago and address economic issues seen as burdensome outside of Chicago.

The lawmakers used the letter to highlight policy areas that could provide opportunities for future discussion. Among them were political reforms to end the culture of corruption and break the grip corrupt politicians have on state institutions, reducing unfunded mandates that drive up costs for local school districts in the suburbs and rural communities and push property taxes higher and minimum wage increases that make downstate and suburban communities uncompetitive compared to neighboring states, respect for the communities, culture, and values outside of Chicago, and workers' compensation costs that push jobs out of the state, especially from downstate communities that rely on manufacturing.

Halbrook said he also wants term limits and a measure that would remove lawmakers from the political map-making process.

“And the voters want that, the citizens want those issues,” Halbrook said in an interview. “They want to see reforms in those areas.”

Halbrook said the letter doesn’t mean his effort to separate Chicago from the rest of Illinois is being postponed, especially in the aftermath of a flurry of end-of-session bills that guaranteed Illinois taxpayers will be paying higher taxes for gas and higher fees for other things.

“That has amped people up even more,” Halbrook said. “It gains momentum every day. We’re coming into the summer months, we’re seeing more information events being formed and dates being set, rallies are forming and dates being set."

“Separation is not the only solution, nor necessarily our preferred one; but without reform, separation is our only option,” the letter said.

Reporter

Greg Bishop reports on Illinois government and other statewide issues for The Center Square. Bishop has years of award-winning broadcast experience, and previously hosted “Bishop On Air,” a morning-drive current events talk show.