Study: Suburbs pay more than what they get back from state

 
 
Posted8/29/2018 5:15 AM
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  • Sales taxes and other taxes paid by people in the suburbs help subsidize programs in downstate counties, according to a recent study by researchers at Southern Illinois University at Carbondale.

      Sales taxes and other taxes paid by people in the suburbs help subsidize programs in downstate counties, according to a recent study by researchers at Southern Illinois University at Carbondale. Mark Welsh | Staff Photographer, September 2017

For every dollar DuPage County taxpayers send to Springfield, the state returns 31 cents.

That's the lowest rate of return among all 102 counties in Illinois, according to a recently released study conducted by researchers at the Paul Simon Public Policy Institute at Southern Illinois University in Carbondale.

That puts DuPage County in a tie for the state's biggest "giver." Taxpayers in the other five counties in the Chicago area also put in more than what comes back from the state, according to the report.

Cook County receives 80 cents for every dollar contributed, Lake County gets back 39 cents, Kane County sees 76 cents come back for every dollar, McHenry County sees 42 cents returned and Will County receives 68 cents for every dollar sent to Springfield.

"We have in this state a long-standing legend that downstate is supporting Cook County and Chicago. The farther south you drive, the more virulent that narrative becomes," said John Jackson, one of the report's two authors. "The biggest theme of this whole paper is that we make the case that facts are better than fiction in terms of public discourse on this topic."

Tiny Putnam County southwest of the Chicago area tied with DuPage, getting back 31 cents for every dollar sent to Springfield. That's likely linked to a Cook County-based oil company that moved its sales offices to Putnam County to save on sales taxes.

In 24 counties, mostly in the northeastern and central parts of the state, taxpayers contributed more to the state than what came back, according to the report.

The other 78 counties, especially those in southern and west central Illinois, got more from the state than their taxpayers paid in.

In fact, the study shows that two of the most southern counties -- Johnson and Union -- receive the greatest rates of return, each getting more than $6 for every $1 paid in taxes.

Jackson and his co-author John Foster tracked sales, income and estate taxes paid in each county using Illinois Department of Revenue data. They also tracked lottery sales by ZIP code and federal Medicaid reimbursements that can be traced to a recipient's home county. That made up 80 percent of all state general fund revenue. Other revenue sources couldn't be tracked specifically to taxpayers in a particular county, the largest chunk of which was corporate income tax revenue, Jackson said.

Then the duo compared the revenue data to state general fund disbursements reported by the Legislative Research Unit. These included payments made to local governments, state aid provided to school districts, community colleges and other state universities as well as health care and human services subsidies and public safety funding, like prisons. They could account for 71 percent of the state's disbursements to the county level. The biggest missing piece of state payments was related to the state's pension obligations, Jackson said.

"Even without having an accounting for every penny it wouldn't have made a fundamental difference in the study," he added.

Data from both revenue and disbursements were for the 2013 fiscal year, the most recent year available.

Ralph Martire, executive director of the Center for Tax and Budget Accountability, a bipartisan government finance think tank based in Chicago, said the results of the study are not surprising, even though the state's politicians continue to push an "us against them" narrative between rural and urban residents.

"It's just because geographic politics are powerful, so it's in the interest of people running for office downstate to say we're exporting money to fat cats in Chicago and the suburbs," Martire said.

Jackson said the goal of the study was to provide a factual analysis of state revenue and disbursements, but he's not expecting minds to change overnight.

"This belief that my region is not getting its fair share is a strong strand of political culture," he said. "That's deeply reflective of what happened in the last presidential election where the rural areas and urban areas are like living in two different worlds."

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Contact Jake at jgriffin@dailyherald.com or (847) 427-4602.

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