By Michael Kleen
Back in May, a measure to expand gambling in Illinois was approved by a committee in the Illinois House of Representatives, provoking Governor Pat Quinn to remark, “We have no interest in becoming the Las Vegas of the Midwest.” Apparently content to continue his knee-jerk and misdirected gambling policy, I believe Governor Quinn is passing up yet another opportunity to attract business and expand freedom in Illinois. The question is, why not be the Las Vegas of the Midwest? Why not be a beacon of prosperity, tourism, and growth? More importantly, why not allow the citizens of Illinois the freedom to choose the kind of entertainment they want to enjoy?
Rather than continue to pursue piecemeal gaming regulation, I believe that most forms of gambling should simply be legalized with one piece of legislation. Currently, the gambling laws of Illinois are bewildering and if I were to read them to a stranger, he or she would think there was no sense to them whatsoever. For example, Illinois has a state-run lottery, and while land-based casinos are illegal, permanently docking a huge gambling barge in a river is not. Although I can walk into an off-track betting facility and put $2 to win on Mysunshine, it is illegal to make a bet with my friends over Sunday night football.
By Michael Kleen
What is wrong with Southern Illinois? Open a newspaper on any given day, and you are likely to ask yourself this question. As Disclosurehas documented for the past several years, there is no shortage of political corruption, crime, substance abuse, and economic despair. Of the 34 counties south of I-70, 14 had unemployment rates of 9.5 percent or higher in September of this year, and just two years ago, Southern Illinois University tottered on the edge of bankruptcy. The situation is not hopeless, however. With the right leadership, things can be turned around.
You see, I live far up north in Winnebago County, and we have a lot in common with Southern Illinois. This area has the highest unemployment rate in the state (13.8 percent in September), and I believe that the same thing that is hurting us up here is hurting the people of southern Illinois: a lack of responsible and inspired leadership. A sense of entitlement and contentment with the status quo at the top, coupled with a “tax and spend” philosophy of government, is strangling the life out of our communities.
By Michael Kleen
Over the past decade, Illinois legislators have borrowed and spent our state into the ground, and now they seem determined to tax it into the ground as well. This is no harmless “politics as usual” – their budgetary machinations have very real consequences. Looming fiscal crisis, coupled with an inability to find solutions other than raiding pension funds or raising taxes, is contributing to an overall decline in our quality of life, not to mention crippling the job prospects of the average Illinoisan. Like a ship of fools, our public officials are ignorant of their course and blind to the injury they cause.
While Governor Quinn and the Illinois Legislature wrangle over how to fix their mess, they are facing an exodus of their tax base. Companies and individuals are fleeing to greener pastures, contributing to an overall decline in the state’s political clout. Thanks to slow growth rates compared to states like Texas, Florida, Georgia, and Arizona, Illinois lost a Congressional seat in 2000 and another in 2010. What do Texas, Florida, Georgia, and Arizona have in common? Besides a warmer climate, all have low tax rates. Florida and Texas have no state income tax at all.
Since the Illinois Legislature passed a dramatic personal and corporate income tax increase (not to mention a new Internet sales tax) earlier this year, companies such as Sears, Jimmy John’s, and Caterpillar have all publically threatened to leave Illinois. According to Jim Dugan, Caterpillar’s chief spokesman, the Illinois tax increase will cost the company’s 23,000 employees in the state about $40 million this year. Like many individual taxpayers who have gravitated toward states in the South, Caterpillar recently announced plans to build manufacturing plants in Texas and North Carolina rather than Illinois…