DEER GROVE - The future of the state's economy is looking bleak, one Illinois business association leader told the audience at Rep. Jerry Mitchell's annual business leaders' breakfast Friday at Deer Valley Country Club. Jeff Mays, president of the Illinois Business Roundtable, a nonprofit, nonpartisan group that studies and makes recommendations on public policy, was the keynote speaker at the event, which drew dozens of business leaders from the Sauk Valley, as well as several state and national candidates in the 2008 election.
Mays, a Republican state representative from 1980 to 1990, said he can not remember a time when the climate in Springfield was this combative.
"We have all read with some sort of concern, the antics going on in Springfield," Mays said. "Old guys like me can remember days like this, but I can't remember it ever being quite so vitriolic."
Illinois has fallen behind other Midwestern states, and the nation as a whole, when it comes to employment and job creation, he said.
"Since 1990, Illinois has languished in job creation. Because of that lag, there have been millions of dollars in jobs lost," Mays said.
The Commission on Government Forecasting and Accountability completed a study last month comparing the Illinois economy with surrounding Midwestern states. Some of the findings paint a bleak picture for Illinois business, he said.
For example, Illinois unemployment has been one of the highest in the country over the last 30 years, and been higher than the national average 70 percent of the time since 1997.
The jobs that are being created are often lower-paying service industry positions versus the manufacturing positions that have been leaving the state, Mays said.
Mitchell also is frustrated with the last year's worth of business in Springfield. The budget has still not been signed by Gov. Rod Blagojevich, who is insisting on an expensive health care program that many don't see as financially viable, Mitchell said.
"It is unbelievable to me what has happened. We didn't get it done on May 31, June went by and we didn't have a budget. July came and went with a temporary budget, which was just enough to hold the state together," Mitchell said. "It is a sad state of affairs, because we are not done (with the budget) yet."