Now that they are semi-retired, former Illinois State Senator Roger Keats and his wife Tina recently left their home in Wilmette and moved to Texas.
Before leaving Illinois, Keats wrote in his hometown newspaper, “After 60 years, I leave Illinois with a heavy heart. BUT enough is enough! The leaders of Illinois refuse to see we can’t continue going in the direction we are and expect people who have options to stay here.”
He noted that Illinois is ranked 50th in fiscal policy, 47th in job creation, first in unfunded pension liabilities, first in bonded indebtedness, and has the second-largest state budget deficit.
So why move to Texas? Well, here there “is no income tax, while Illinois’ just went up 67percent.” Additionally, their new home in Dripping Springs “will cost us around 40 percent of what our home in Wilmette just sold for.”
The Keatses came to Texas because it costs less to live here and they’ll pay a lot less in taxes.
On the other hand, the Keatses say that the Texas Department of Agriculture’s “GO TEXAN Certified Retirement Community Program” had nothing to do with their choosing Texas as a retirement destination. In fact, it was programs like this that drove them out of Illinois, because programs like this cost money and governments have to tax their citizens to pay for them.
Yet, as Texas is facing a $15 billion budget shortfall, the Legislature is not looking to cut programs like this. In fact, it is instead looking for ways to increase revenues to pay for them.
Such was the purpose of a recent Texas Senate Finance Committee hearing, as members discussed the possibility of raising $4.8 billion of “non-tax revenue.” And the ideas for more revenue don’t stop there.
So rather than save $32 million by eliminating funding for the Texas Film and Music Marketing program, the Legislature is debating a constitutional amendment that would allow the state to impose an income tax on Texas businesses.
Instead of saving $89.3 million by eliminating the Texas Emission Reduction Program-a corporate welfare program that does little to improve air quality – the Legislature is considering a $102.4 million tax on cable/satellite television customers.
And in place of cutting $558 million in costs by asking state employees to pay for a modest portion of their health insurance premiums, the Legislature may eliminate the back-to-school sales tax holiday at a cost to Texans of $111 million.
Even the consideration of such measures shows that too many legislators have forgotten what made Texas the leading job creator in the country over the last 10 years.
We provided 843,000 new jobs while the rest of the country lost 1.3 million for a lot of reasons, but at the forefront has been our willingness to rein in runaway spending. Texas has a history of getting a little carried away with spending, but unlike California and Illinois, we get our heads back on straight and deal with the problem.
At the moment, however, it is unclear which direction Texas is going to take when it comes to spending.
The Keatses weren’t alone in deciding to move to Texas. In the past 10 years, about 1.8 million other Americans have made the decision to pack up-often from high-tax, low-job states-and move to Texas. Many of them must have been the Keatses’ neighbors, since the Census Bureau recently announced that Chicago’s population has fallen to a 100-year low.
Texas legislators have a choice. They can either keep taxes low and the economy growing by eliminating funding for programs like those that promote retirement homes, music, and films. Or they can keep paying for the programs and join in with states like Illinois to make a wreck out of our economy. By May 30th, we’ll have their answer.
Bill Peacock is vice president of research and planning and director of the Center for Economic Freedom at the Texas Public Policy Foundation.