Study: Despite perception, downstate Illinois not getting short changed

CHICAGO — Downstate lawmakers constantly complain about what they see as the Chicago-area’s outsized influence over the state’s priorities. However, a new study by the Paul Simon Public Policy Institute at Southern Illinois University-Carbondale found it’s the suburbs that are actually on the short end of the state spending stick.

Researchers conclude taxes and spending are not equally distributed across Illinois. Key findings include:

  • Chicago’s suburban counties generated about twice as much in taxes as they receive in direct state spending.
  • Cook County is closer to breaking even in this comparison although it provides slightly more tax revenue than it receives in state spending.
  • Downstate Illinois, on the other hand benefits from the state tax and spend mix. The 96 downstate counties, as a group receive about 50 percent more in state spending than they contribute in tax revenue.

“It is quite clear that downstate taxes are not being disproportionately siphoned off and spent in the City of Chicago,” the report concluded. The study’s authors said their findings “are not consistent with the rural resentment findings of the earlier survey data and a great deal of political rhetoric and folklore that is widely accepted and heard repeatedly in almost every political campaign in the regions.”

The study pointed to the results of poll conducted that found 66 percent of downstate residents feel rural areas of Illinois are given “somewhat” or “much less” than their fair share of government resources.

Read the full study here.