Reeder: Whether Quinn likes it or not, Illinois is competing with Texas

SPRINGFIELD – Who cares what Texas Gov. Rick Perry thinks?

That’s the note that a friend sent me the other day. He was angry about the latest job-poaching trip that Perry made to our state.

We should care because Perry might succeed in rustling up some jobs and driving them south to the land of tumbleweeds, armadillos and rattlesnakes.

That said, it’s not too late to shut the corral gate and keep business right here in the Land of Lincoln.

I’ve lived in Texas and Illinois, and have chosen the Prairie State for my home. I want Illinois to succeed. After all, this is where I have chosen to raise my family.

Illinois’ central location and excellent transportation infrastructure give it enormous potential. But anytime you face competition, you need to realistically assess who you are competing against – and adjust.

And Texas is a formidable foe.

• We have a 5 percent personal income tax; Texas has none.

• For every $100 in payroll, Texas employers pay 39 cents for workers’ compensation insurance; their Illinois counterparts pay $1.10.

• On average, gasoline costs 27 cents less per gallon in the Lone Star state than here in Illinois.

“With rising taxes and government interference on the upswing, your situation is not unlike a burning building on the verge of collapse,” Perry said in a letter to Illinois businesses.

Did I mention that Texans tend to be a bit prone to hyperbole?

But still, Texas is doing some things right. It has an unemployment rate of 6.4 percent compared with Illinois’ rate of 9.5 percent.

In 2011, 97,450 building permits were issued in Texas compared with 11,809 here in Illinois.

So how did Gov. Pat Quinn respond?

Our governor pointed to water. Yes, water. He said Illinois has more water than drought-prone Texas, which puts us at an advantage to attract water technology companies.

Well, Pat, pump that advantage for all it’s worth. But you’ll be paddling upstream trying to pitch that as much of an edge to most industries pondering whether to leave Illinois.

Let’s face it. The Illinois we love isn’t as competitive as it should be. And most of the excuses we hear from Quinn, don’t, well, hold water.

Illinois has the fourth-highest corporate income tax in the industrialized world, according to the Tax Foundation. No one wants to start a business to see potential profits siphoned away for government. That’s one reason why low-tax states such as Texas are prospering.

Our regulatory environment also is not the most appealing in the nation.

The high cost of workers’ compensation insurance and other regulatory issues are contributing reasons to why factories are vanishing from the landscape of Illinois.

But instead of a reasoned response to these concerns, Quinn points to water.

He’s all wet.

• Scott Reeder is a veteran statehouse reporter and the journalist in residence at the Illinois Policy Institute. He can be reached at sreeder@illinoispolicy.org.

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