St. Louis blues called better than Illinois ills
Illinois has a peculiar way of making Missouri look good, a public policy group spokesperson said recently.
"No matter how bad St. Louis gets, they can always say, 'We're better off than Illinois,' " Patrick Touhey, western Missouri field manager for the Show-Me Institute, said on the Illinois Rising radio program recently. "Sometimes Illinois is used as a foil, perhaps. When people try to institute reforms in St. Louis and in Missouri, they can say, 'We're doing better than some people around us.' That's not flattering for Illinois to hear, but it does have policy repercussions in the bordering states."
Illinois Rising is co-hosted by Dan Proft, a principal of Local Government Information Services, which owns this publication.
One of Missouri's recent policy decisions has made lllinois something of an island. Missouri is now a right-to-work state, putting the finishing touches on the circle of states surrounding Illinois that have adopted the measure.
A new governor made all the difference in Missouri, Touhey said.
"That was exactly it: We had an election," he said.
When Republican Gov. Eric Greitens signed the right-to-work bill sent to him by Missouri's GOP-controlled legislature, he said it was what was best for the state's workers.
"Today, I signed Right to Work," Greitens tweeted. "This is about more jobs -- Missourians are ready to work, and now our state is open for business!"
In 2015, Missouri's GOP-dominated Legislature passed a similar bill, but it was vetoed by then-Democrat Gov. Jay Nixon. While there was strong support for the bill in the Missouri legislature, it wasn't enough, Touhey said.
"The initial vote had enough to override, but then some individuals changed their minds in the interim," he said.
However, Nixon's days as governor were limited by term limits, and Greitens faced Democrat Chris Koster and Libertarian Cisse Spragins in the race to replace him.
"Then we had the election last year," Touhey said. "Eric Greitens was adamantly pro right-to-work throughout the campaign -- opposed by unions, but he got elected, and so here we are."
Greitens won with 51.29 percent of the vote, giving conservatives in the state great hopes for a list of items, Touhey said, including paycheck protection, pension reform, and reconsidering the structure of government employee unions.
"Right to work is one of many reforms that are needed to clean up the state," Touhey said.
Some of those reforms are in Illinois Republican Gov. Bruce Rauner's "Turnaround Agenda."
Last year, Illinois lost more residents than any other state, putting its population at the lowest it has been in nearly a decade, according to U.S. Census data. Much of the loss has been blamed on high taxes that make it hard for businesses to succeed.
"Regardless of where a business locates, the workers of that business may relocate into that same state," Touhey said.