Reeder: Don't be down in dumps about Illinois

SPRINGFIELD – Illinois is a terrific place to live.

At least that is what I thought 15 years ago when I moved back to my home state after a stint as a reporter in Las Vegas.

The weather leaves a bit to be desired, but folks here are pretty down to earth. And there is a certain Midwestern sensibility here that I haven’t found in other places I’ve lived, such as Texas and Nevada.

So imagine my amazement when I read a Gallup poll this past week that says one-fourth of all Illinoisans believe they live in the worst place in America.

Yeah, one out of four think the Prairie State is as bad as it gets.

By comparison, only 1 percent of Iowans say that about their state.

With so many self-esteem issues, perhaps it’s time for us Illinoisans to collectively lay down on a therapist’s couch and share our woes. One can almost hear our collective neuroses coming to light:

“Well, doctor, we had faulty father figures. You know: Blagojevich, Ryan, Walker and that other fella who went to prison – Kerner. And, doctor, we have trust issues. Our politicians lie to us. They will tell us a tax hike is temporary and then turn around and try to make it permanent.”

One can almost picture a therapist sagely nodding and saying, “Do you think you may bring some of these problems on yourself?”  

“Well, doctor, we keep finding ourselves attracted to the wrong kind of people.”

Other states don’t have this woe-is-us mindset.

For example, 75 percent of Alaskans and Montanans rank their state No.1. Perennially proud Texas has 68 percent of its residents say their state is tops.

So why are we Illinoisans so down in the dumps about our home?

Well, much of it has to do with the way we are governed. Of the last eight men we have elected governor, four have ended up in prison. That’s just plain sad.

But, but last year, a Gallup poll found something else: 71 percent of Illinoisans believe their taxes are too high. We ranked fourth in the nation for taxpayer resentment.

Let’s face it, folks are tired of being lied to.

Back in 2011, the Legislature voted in the middle of the night during a lame-duck session to jack our income tax rates up 67 percent. But they promised it would be temporary.

Now those same folks who promised the tax hike would partially expire in 2015 want to make it permanent. In fact, don’t be surprised if we see a vote to do just that before June 1.

But that’s politics – not Illinois.

Illinois is more than the shenanigans that happen under the dome in Springfield.

We are 12 million people strong, a state with a proud heritage. We are a land that produced Lincoln, Grant, Reagan and Obama. We have a proud history in agriculture, industry and science.

We are the honored home of the University of Chicago, Northwestern, the University of Illinois and other world-class institutions.

I grew up on a farm near Galesburg and live in a village near Springfield. I love the rolling prairie and watching my daughters with their livestock projects. I have family members in the Chicago suburbs, as well as deep southern Illinois. And I have friends from Chicago.

People show enormous pride in their region.

But somehow many of us can be proud of being from downstate, the suburbs or Chicago but not of being from Illinois.

Illinois has big problems but not insurmountable ones. It’s time to stop listening to the politicians’ narratives and think for ourselves. With a bit of perseverance, we can weather the challenges we face.

We Illinoisans should not only expect the best from those we elect – but from ourselves.

• Scott Reeder is a veteran statehouse reporter and the journalist in residence at the Illinois Policy Institute. He can be reached at

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