State Republican leaders won't back a proposal from some of the party's members to split the state in two by separating Chicago from the rest of Illinois.
A group of Illinois Republicans in mostly southern Illinois have been hosting gatherings around the state to talk to people about a plan to get the federal government to split Illinois into two states. State Rep. Brad Halbrook, R-Shelbyville, filed House Resolution 101 in February. It has six co-sponsors and little prospect of getting out of the House Rules Committee. State Rep. Tony McCombie, R-Savanna, had signed on to support the resolution, but was removed as a co-sponsor in June.
Halbrook said the resolution is more than political rhetoric. He said it’s about Chicago policies affecting the rest of the state.
Illinois Republican Party Chairman Tim Schneider said the resolution was not part of the party’s platform.
“I don’t believe that’s a policy of ours moving forward,” he said. “We all know that Chicago and Cook County is likely going to be part of Illinois for the foreseeable future.”
House Minority Leader Jim Durkin, R-Western Springs, dismissed the resolution as a political ploy for reelection.
“They’ve got interesting ideas and I’ll just say that if it works back in their district then good for them, but we all know that’s not a possibility,” he said.
Durkin said removing Chicago from the state would be damaging.
“If [there] was ever a chance that it could happen, then it would be [harmful], but this is just political rhetoric by some members,” he said. “I don’t put much stock in it, nor does anybody else.”
Halbrook said the idea was not a ploy. He said it stemmed from policies from Chicago for higher taxes and more regulations being pushed onto the more rural parts of the state.
He said his constituents only see the prospects of more tax increases and additional bailouts for Chicago.
“All the while folks from Chicago are saying ‘hey look, downstate can’t survive without us,’ well then why is the mayor making all these trips to the governor's office looking for support on these things,” Halbrook said.
Halbrook said that Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot was asking state lawmakers for the authority to increase certain taxes and other ways the state could shore up the city’s unfunded pension debt and address the city's budget shortfall.
Halbrook’s resolution remains in committee. There are other county-wide ballot initiatives underway in some parts of the state to try to force the separation issue.
Halbrook said he was "amazed at the organic movement around separation that is gaining momentum" in a statement released Monday that announced his re-election bid.
“I understand that it is a difficult process to form a new state separate from the City of Chicago, but there is a Constitutional process for this, and it has happened four times in our nation’s history,” Halbrook said. “The reason this movement has gained so much traction is because of the radical agenda being pushed by Chicago legislators.
"People in rural Illinois are tired of having their values be ignored and the more politicians in Chicago dismiss these efforts the more it serves to prove the point that the ideas and values of rural voters are being ignored,” he said.