Census: State loses citizens, falls to No. 6 in population
Census figures released last week show that Illinois lost the most residents of any state in the country between 2016 and 2017.
As a result, Illinois dropped behind Pennsylvania in population and now is only the sixth most populous state in the union.
The figures released Wednesday show Illinois’ population dropped by 33,703 people in the past year. The figures were measured between July 1, 2016, and July 1 of this year.
That leaves Illinois with a population of 12,802,023, the U.S. Census said. That’s a drop of 0.26 percent.
Springfield natives Mary Lou Hott and her husband are two of those who called it quits on Illinois this year after 60 years.
“The main reason we moved – we live in Springdale, Arkansas now – we have a daughter and son-in-law and 18-month-old grandson here,” Mary Lou Hott said. “That is the main reason for our move, to be close to our family. We don’t have any family left in Illinois. We had a lot of friends, a great life. It was a very difficult decision for us to leave.”
But while being closer to family was the main reason for the move, it wasn’t the only one, Hott said.
“Also, a big reason was the taxes in Illinois,” she said.
Specifically, property taxes. Hott said property taxes this year on their home in Princeville, northwest of Peoria, were $8,000.
“Our house in (Arkansas) is very comparable in price. Our taxes here are going to be $1,600,” she said.
At the same time, Hott is now paying income taxes on the pension she receives as a retired Illinois teacher. Illinois does not apply the income tax to pension income. (Her husband owned a small business, which he has sold. He now works part time).
“Arkansas will tax most of my pension, but even with that difference, it does not make up for the property taxes,” she said.
There’s also the matter of weather, which Hott said was a factor in the decision. The summers may be a little more humid, but the winters will be more tolerable, she said.
Hott’s situation helps illustrate the multiple factors that can enter into a decision to relocate. Part of it fits into Gov. Bruce Rauner’s narrative that high taxes, particularly property taxes, are driving people out of Illinois. But a desire to be close to family or escape Illinois weather are issues politicians can’t address.
Mark Denzler, vice president of the Illinois Manufacturers’ Association, said the fact Illinois lost population while states like Wisconsin and Indiana gained leads him to believe the jobs climate is the main culprit.
“The fact is, we continue to bleed jobs,” he said. “When kids graduate from high school or college and there’s not a job here, they leave. There certainly are challenges we’ve had – the infighting politically and the lack of stability.”
He said if the trend continues, Illinois could potentially lose two congressional seats, causing further damage since many federal assistance programs are based on population.
Although Rauner has blamed much of the out-migration on Democratic policies and House Speaker Michael Madigan in particular, his opponents said the governor is responsible.
Galia Slayen, spokeswoman for Democrat J.B. Pritzker, said Rauner admitted to the Chicago Tribune that he created a crisis to promote his agenda and “the U.S. Census Bureau confirmed that his damage is done. Rauner’s damage drove Illinoisans out of this state, losing talent and wasting opportunities when we needed them most.”
Democrat Chris Kennedy’s campaign released a statement that says Rauner’s “leadership is decimating our state, and our rapid population decline is evidence of that. Illinois residents are moving to states where quality schools and economic opportunity are available to them.”
The campaign office of state Rep. Jeanne Ives, who is running against Rauner for the Republican nomination for governor, issued a statement saying the census numbers came as no surprise.
““Governor Rauner promised to grow the economy through a conservative reform agenda. He never so much as moved the ball in that direction.”