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Opinion: If We Split Illinois Into Two States ...

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Opinion: If We Split Illinois Into Two States ...

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Another Downstate politician is agitating to kick Chicago out of Illinois. Last year, Bill Mitchell, a Republican from Forsyth, suggested we form our own state. This time, it’s a Democrat.

State Sen. Gary Forby of Benton is furious that Gov. Pat Quinn wants to close the super-maximum security in Tamms, which lies in his deep Southern Illinois district. On Thursday, Forby went off -- not just on Quinn, but on our entire city.

“I’ve been hearing it for a long time, but why don’t we do away with Chicago?” Forby ranted. “You know, I’m just about there. I’m about ready to just cut ’em off and push ’em right out in the water. ... Put him [the governor] right on the nose of the boat and push him right out in the water.”

Downstate’s contempt for Chicago is now officially bi-partisan. So what would happen if Illinois split into two states?

Let’s suppose the six northeastern counties -- Cook, DuPage, Lake, Kane, Will and McHenry -- were split off from the rest of the state. They could keep the name, since the Illinois Indians didn’t live up here. We’d call our new state Potawatomi.

    Population:
    Potawatomi: 8.3 million
    Illinois: 4.5 million

    Fortune 500 companies
    Potawatomi: 28
    Illinois: 4 (Archer Daniels Midland, State Farm, Caterpillar, Deere)

    State universities
    Potawatomi: 4
    Illinois: 8

    Prisons
    Potawatomi: 1
    Illinois: 40

    State Parks
    Potawatomi: 6
    Illinois: 35

    Per capita income
    Potawatomi: Ranges from $23,227 in Cook County to $35,546 in DuPage County
    Illinois: Ranges from $13,325 in Pulaski County to $23,173 in Sangamon County.

Downstaters who want to separate from Chicago assume they’ll be able to establish a conservative paradise of loose gun laws, speedy executions, intolerance of homosexuals and low taxes. Certainly an Illinois General Assembly purged of Cook County legislators would allow concealed carry of handguns, reinstate the death penalty, and ban civil unions for gays and lesbians.

But as the above chart demonstrates, Potawatomi has most of the population and most of the money, while Illinois has most of the publicly-funded institutions. If a rump Illinois wanted to maintain its system of universities, state parks and prisons, it would have to raise income taxes beyond their current 5 percent. It could decide to close some institutions, and probably would, since a smaller population would not require so many parks, prisons and colleges. But doing so would eliminate the jobs of thousands of professionals, who would leave Illinois in droves, thus depriving the state of a middle class.

There may have been a time when it was practical to split Illinois in two, but that time was around 1850. 

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Related Topics Opinion, Pat Quinn
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