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SALMAGUNDI: Move to evict Chicago from Illinois is shortsighted

There are 50 nifty United States, per the catchy tune we learned in junior high, and every so often someone suggests there ought to be a 51st.

Three leading rabble-rousers of late are Republican state Reps. Brad Holbrook, of Shelbyville, Chris Miller, of Oakland, and Darren Bailey, of Xenia, who are the sponsors of House Resolution 101, which urges Congress to declare Chicago its own state, separating it from the rest of Illinois.

Supporting evidence includes a “the $221 million bailout for the Chicago Public Schools pension system that was signed into law last year,” counties approving firearms sanctuary resolutions in contrast to the city’s strict gun laws and the assertion “the majority of residents in downstate Illinois disagree with city of Chicago residents on key issues such as gun ownership, abortion, immigration and other policy issues.”

The resolution makes no mention of an August report from the Paul Simon Public Policy Institute at Southern Illinois University Carbondale showing “the downstate region receives more than it pays into the state coffers. The best deals are received in central Illinois and Southern Illinois,” according to a university release.

Researchers divided Illinois into six regions, Cook County, the five collar counties and then north, central, southwest and southern regions.

“The research shows the south region receives $2.81 in state funds for every $1 generated,” according to SIU. “The Central Illinois region of 50 counties receives $1.87 back for every $1 sent to Springfield. All of the downstate regions receive more from the state budget than they pay in taxes. By comparison, Cook County receives 90 cents for every $1, and the suburban counties only 53 cents for every $1 generated.”

The resolution’s first bit of evidence cites the 2010 race for governor between Democrat Pat Quinn and Republican Bill Brady, which Quinn won 46.8-45.9 “despite only carrying four counties out of 102 counties, and, in fact, did not need to carry any other counties to win because of the margin of victory in Chicago and Cook County.”

In that election, 13,495 La Salle County voters opted to back Quinn, while 17,378 supported Brady. Quinn’s support here increased to 13,871 in 2014 when he lost to Republican Bruce Rauner, named on 19,843 ballots. In 2018, Democrat JB Pritzker collected 17,397 votes here while Rauner netted 19,034.

That’s just one small measure of GOP electoral superiority, but calling for Chicago to be evicted from Illinois while ignoring thousands of Democratic voters here and throughout Illinois seems as unfair to them as it does to the more than 400,000 Cook County voters who backed the Republican candidate through each cycle.

According to 2010 Census data, Lake, DuPage and McHenry counties are tops in per capita income and second through fourth in median household income, which means the people there are doing some heavy lifting in terms of filling Springfield’s tax coffers.

John Jackson, a Simon Institute visiting professor, noted nine of 12 state universities, most community colleges and correctional facilities are outside Chicago and its suburbs. The other regions have more highway, street and road miles under state purview and, excepting parts of Chicago, the highest poverty indicators.

Clearly Illinois is diverse along dozens of demographic lines. There isn’t even uniformity among political subdivisions — Republicans are at odds over how strongly to support the president, and the Democrats are engaged in a soul-searching primary process. I suggest that diversity is a strength, reflective of the American ideal as a whole.

Here’s hoping Holbrook, Miller and Bailey find more productive pursuits in the remainder of the legislative session.

CATCHING UP WITH … In January 2018 I interviewed Jessica Bursztynsky. At the time, the Ottawa High School and Illinois Valley Community College grad was news editor of the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign’s Daily Illini.

The backdrop of her life has changed dramatically in recent weeks although her dedication to journalism remains steadfast. On Jan. 14, Bursztynsky started working as a full-time breaking news intern for CNBC in New York.

“I do a lot of different things,” she told me Sunday. “I work with the breaking news editors to write up breaking stories (for example, I covered when Sony dropped singer R. Kelly), help on the photo desk and am working on longer projects with the different teams. No day is ever the same, which is exciting, and I’m constantly learning. I’m finishing my last class online, so I can graduate on time in May and hopefully stay in New York City.”

Follow her work at

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