This past week I saw two reports that should guide our local and state policies towards economic recovery. The Illinois Hotel and Lodging Association reported that the state’s conventions and tourism industry generated over $25 billion of income in 2009 while employing 600,000 people either directly or indirectly and paying $2 billion in taxes to state and local units of government.
Conventions and tourism is the state’s second largest industry after agriculture in Illinois and a real boost to the economy. We are doing a good job of promoting and attracting visitors.
Meanwhile a report from the American Legislative Exchange Council observed that Illinois lost nearly 638,000 residents in the last decade ranking it 48th nationally in population growth. Why are residents fleeing the state while more visitors are flocking in?
According to a variety of organizations that testified to the House Job Creation Task Force, part of the answer is government policies of business regulation, failure to pay bills or pensions, borrowing, and unstable tax climate that create caution and scare employers out of the state. Illinois has many economic advantages but government leaders are squandering them.
It’s time to change the direction of our state and support leaders who will invest not only in tourism and conventions but also in keeping and attracting employers. Illinois needs to balance its budget, reform business regulations and focus on creating jobs. The Regional Economics Applications Laboratory reports if Illinois had just grown jobs at the national rate over the last decade it would have collected $6 billion in additional tax revenue to pay bills and government services.
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