A fond farewell to state I love that doesn't seem to love me
As a person who makes his living in the political world, a big part of what I try to do is separate my emotions from rational thought in hopes of being able to see the world as clear-eyed as possible. So, it is with much sadness, but after considerable rational analysis, that I have decided to say goodbye to the state of Illinois, the place that from this point on will have the qualifier of being my "childhood home." I have officially made the move to Florida.
Like many other young people who are statistically likely to have their best earning years ahead of them, this decision will help me avoid the high taxes, excessive regulation and the corruption of Illinois politicians and government.
This is something I have been contemplating for awhile, but a combination of family, friends, loyalty and simple inertia have held me back from making the move. The results of the 2018 elections in Illinois and the rise to power of those who believe in growing the size of government, increasing regulations and strengthening labor unions -- all at the expense of the individual, entrepreneurs and businesses -- all helped make the choice relatively straightforward for me.
In some ways, I don't feel like I'm leaving Illinois. I feel as though Illinois left me.
When I started Turning Point USA right here in this state nearly seven years ago, there were many Illinois citizens who provided critical donations. This is the state in which TPUSA was born, but it is now the state from which those early donors have fled. TPUSA has also fled, taking its 150 employees and $15 million budget along with it.
Now I feel I now have no choice but to leave, too.
The IRS has just released data that indicates Illinois is in the top five states from which wealthy millennials are departing. The IRS defines "wealthy millennial" as someone under the age of 35 earning over $100,000 per year. The rankings were based on tax information taken between the years of 2015 and 2016, meaning Illinois was already losing young and promising citizens at an alarming rate well before the 2018 election and the looming "fair tax" set for a November 2020 vote. Like so many others did, I probably should have left sooner.
Back in 1932, Supreme Court Justice Louis Brandeis wrote the following often-quoted line in the case of New State Ice Co. v. Liebmann: "It is one of the happy incidents of the federal system that a single courageous state may, if its citizens choose, serve as a laboratory; and try novel social and economic experiments without risk to the rest of the country." Well, the economic experiment in Illinois is under way, and I'm afraid it appears to be headed off a financial cliff.
Illinois has a $216 billion debt load that would require a tax of approximately $51,000 per person to eliminate. In Cook County, the last budget projected a deficit of $49 million and is on track to reach over $200 million by 2023. The Chicago Public School's teacher's union pension fund has a staggering unfunded liability of over $9 billion. With over 30,000 teachers, active or retired, being paid more than $100,000 per year, it is estimated that one out of three state income-tax dollars are going toward teacher pay.
None of this is sustainable.
Early on in my political efforts, one of my goals was to fight for reform right here in Illinois, the state I love. As I watched things slip away, I felt as though I had let the state down. I no longer feel that way. There are much bigger forces at work in Illinois than I originally understood. I am now resigned to the fact that Illinois is going to continue its decline for a long while before these forces are overcome by a willingness to reverse course.
The politicians are addicted to the power that comes with increased regulatory control, high taxes and sweet-sounding promises they know they can never fulfill. Like any other addict, rock-bottom will have to be hit before there can be a true awakening.
I leave while carrying a sense of survivor's guilt. There are many people I know here who would like to leave but are trapped by individual circumstance. For them and for the state I love, I will continue to speak out on the excesses of government, but I will do so from a distance. You will still hear from me, I'm just sad we just won't be seeing each other as often.
Charlie Kirk, a Wheeling native, is founder and executive director of Turning Point USA, a conservative youth organization with a presence on over 1,400 college and high school campuses.