Suburban lawmakers say a downstate push to separate Chicago from the rest of Illinois is implausible, especially considering the economic activity generated by the northeast portion of the state.
Three Republican legislators -- two from the southern half of the state and one from Rockford -- recently introduced House Resolution 1138 urging Congress to declare Chicago its own state. The measure states the city is treated as a separate region and is often "bailed out" by taxpayers from other parts of Illinois.
However, state Sen. Tom Cullerton, a Villa Park Democrat, pointed to data from a Legislative Research Unit report that shows Cook and the collar counties pump more money into state coffers, and get far less back, compared to the rest of the state.
Eight counties in northeastern Illinois recoup 80 cents for every dollar contributed to the state in taxes and other fees, while parts of southern and central Illinois get $2 for every $1 paid, according to the study, which was reported on Capitolfax.com.
"It is sad that during the bicentennial of our great state there are downstate legislators that want to separate and divide us rather than move toward a thriving Illinois," Cullerton said, pointing to a recently adopted bipartisan budget. "I would hope that the legislators from downstate would look at the facts that northeastern Illinois is a major contributor to the bottom line of our state."
Though Chicago serves as an economic engine, Athens resident Collin Cliburn said he believes residents of rural communities deserve better representation in the General Assembly.
The Illinois Separation, a grass-roots effort led by Cliburn, is aiming to alleviate a majority of the state from what he says are poor decisions made by Cook County politicians. His online petition for all of Illinois outside Cook County to form a new state has garnered more than 1,600 signatures.
"We just don't see very many good choices being made right now," he said. "I realize that if we were to separate, there is going to be a financial crisis of some sort outside of Chicago. But for the most part, my people would rather drive on dirt roads than be told what to do from Chicago politicians anymore."
According to the House resolution, the conflict between the city and downstate has been ongoing for nearly 200 years, and several attempts have been made to divide Illinois. The measure, sponsored by state Rep. Reginald Phillips of Charleston, says downstate residents often disagree with Chicago on gun ownership, immigration and other policy issues.
State Rep. Jeanne Ives, a Wheaton Republican, said she doesn't believe the secession bill will come to fruition. The lawmakers promoting the bill did so "as an act of frustration," she said. "They're very frustrated because Chicago does run the state largely."
State Rep. Tom Morrison, a Palatine Republican, said he doesn't believe the measure is a "serious proposal."
Though previous attempts to divide the state have fallen through, Cliburn says he believes his plan will be different. He's been working with a lawyer to develop a new state constitution and has gained support throughout the state for his movement.
He says he also has been working with county boards to put the measure on the November ballot, which he believes will set the plan in motion.
• Daily Herald staff writer Marni Pyke contributed to this report.