McHENRY – With decades of business and political experience under his belt, Bill Daley spoke to area business owners about the difficult financial issues facing Illinois.
Daley was the keynote speaker at a business luncheon Wednesday in McHenry, and the former chief of staff to President Obama and chairman of JP Morgan Chase Midwest did not mince words in describing Illinois' fiscal state.
“There's no denying that Illinois is in a fiscal mess,” Daley said. “We can, and we must, attempt to do better.”
Daley highlighted the state's $97 billion in unfunded pension obligations, $9 billion in unpaid bills, and a collapsing credit rating for the current economic woes.
He also noted that Illinois has the ninth highest income gap in the nation between the rich and the poor.
“These aren't ranking to be proud of. They are shameful,” he said.
Daley pointed to the working and middle class families as the ones most hurt by Illinois' poor finances, and he said successful leadership is key to turning things around.
“With forceful, effective leadership, people in our state can enjoy the benefits of better education, a stronger infrastructure, a better economy, and more jobs,” he said. “Without it, we will run into a fiscal wall, which we may not be able to come back from.”
Business owners in McHenry County brought up many concerns from their own businesses, including other states poaching businesses away from Illinois. To that, Daley said government officials need to stress business as a top priority.
“There has to be an attitude from leadership that business matters,” he said. “That sounds trite … but we need to first be talking to our own business on how we can keep them here.”
Daley added that, in order to lessen the state's financial burden, middle class families should have a tax credit and government should eliminate tax breaks for billion dollar companies.
“The Chicago Mercantile Exchange is an integral part of this community, state, and the country. But come on. To give them a tax break? When they made $2 billion last year? I'm a business person, but there's a point where it ticks people off,” Daley said.