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Illinois Policy Institute
In one of the first proposals of the new General Assembly, state Rep. Chris Welch, D-Westchester, proposed making October 2017 “zombie preparedness month.”

Illinoisans are facing a fiscal emergency. Homeowners are saddled with the nation’s highest property taxes, job creators have to navigate an uncompetitive workers’ compensation system, not to mention the worst pension crisis in the nation, and billions in unpaid bills. But politicians are unwilling to confront those challenges, even as residents continue fleeing for other states as a response.

At least one Springfield lawmaker, though, wants Illinoisans to brace themselves for another threat: Zombies.

On Jan. 12, state Rep. Chris Welch, D-Westchester, filed House Resolution 0030, which would designate October 2017 as “Zombie Preparedness Month,” urging “Illinoisans to educate themselves about natural disasters and take steps to create a stockpile of food, water and other emergency supplies that can last up to 72 hours.”

The language in this bill demonstrates insensitivity and a lack of seriousness on the part of lawmakers.

The state has seen some devastating natural disasters in recent years, such as tornados that injured hundreds and destroyed homes and businesses in the Washington and Rochelle, Ill. areas in 2013 and 2015, respectively. Comparing events like that to a fictitious zombie threat shows the severe disconnect between the priorities of politicians and the concerns of regular Illinoisans.

But that’s not surprising, given that lawmakers are ignoring the real, fiscal emergencies Illinoisans are facing right now.

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Illinois lost 114,000 people to domestic migration from July 2015-July 2016, causing a population dip of nearly 38,000 people. And the reasons cited are frequently the same. A Paul Simon Public Policy Institute poll from October 2016 found that nearly half of registered voters in the state would leave Illinois if they could, with high taxes being the primary reason.

The financial realities the state faces are critical, with Illinois’ credit ratings floating just above junk-rated status. Not only are more people fleeing Illinois, but those leaving tend to earn more than those left behind. The continued loss of taxpayers only adds to the dysfunction in Springfield, where lawmakers haven’t passed a balanced budget in 16 years. The most recent budget proposal in the General Assembly – crafted with bipartisan support in the Senate – does little to reform the state, while increasing the burden on taxpayers already facing the fifth-highest overall rates in the nation.

The newly inaugurated General Assembly should come forward with fresh ideas to truly balance the budget and enact structural reforms to grow the state.

Ideas like “zombie preparedness month” don’t do much to instill confidence in lawmakers’ ability to save the state. Welch is right that Illinoisans are facing an emergency. But ideas like a true property tax freeze and overhauling the state’s workers’ compensation system would be the right start to remedy it.

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