In his first State of the State address, Gov. J.B. Pritzker covered a wide range of topics. Though he didn’t directly address the real estate industry, he did touch on a number of topics that will have an impact on the work of real estate professionals. Here are a few key moments from today’s speech you should know about.
Easing tax woes
Perhaps of most pressing interest to real estate professionals is the state of property taxes. Pritzker noted that their initial work toward tackling the pension crisis has begun, which should help keep worries of an increase in property taxes somewhat at bay by lowering the budget stress felt by local communities. Still, he noted there is still work to be done to actually alleviate the problem.
“Property taxes in Illinois are simply too high,” he said. “We can change the law to support local governments and lower property taxes. And with nearly 7,000 units of government in Illinois, it’s time to empower local taxpayers to consolidate or eliminate them. These changes, along with our landmark pension reform that consolidated police and firefighter pensions, can make a serious dent in property taxes.”
Attracting new residents
One issue that’s dogged Illinois in recent years is declining population. Pritzker outlined three ways the state has helped bring in more people and keep the residents we have now.
- Employment: The first one was a major part of the governor’s remarks: job creation. He noted that the 6.2 million jobs supported by the state’s economy is the most jobs on record, giving Illinois its lowest unemployment rate in history. “Over the past year, Illinois has reduced its unemployment rate more than all of the top twenty most populated states in the nation,” Pritzker said. “We laid the groundwork for new high-paying tech jobs by opening new business incubators, by incentivizing the building of new data centers, and by investing $100 million in a University of Illinois and University of Chicago partnership that will make Illinois the quantum computing capital of the world.”
- Education: Pritzker also noted that another investment that brings residents to the state is its schools. He pledged to make Illinois the No. 1 state for education. “Student applications to Illinois’ public universities increased last fall for the first time in many years. Illinois is the second-largest producer of computer science degrees in the nation, accounting for nearly 10 percent of all computer science degrees awarded in the entire United States,” he said.
- Immigration: Pritzker made clear that bringing immigrants to Illinois is also a continuing priority for his administration. “We stood up for human rights and civil rights when we put Donald Trump on notice that Illinois will not be complicit in his shameful and draconian immigration policies,” he said. “We opted in — to welcoming refugees to Illinois – continuing a proud tradition in this state that stretches back to my great grandparents, welcomed here a century ago after fleeing anti-Semitism in Europe.
- Infrastructure: Pritzker expects 500,000 jobs to come from the infrastructure bill, known as Rebuild Illinois, noting that it will not only fix potholes but also “bring broadband to parts of the state that are internet deserts, as well as modernize our hospitals, our community centers, our state police facilities, our universities and colleges – all of the things that keep us going and growing.”
Burnishing Illinois’ image
Corruption might not immediately seem like an obvious issue for Chicagoland real estate professionals to care about, but the so-called corruption tax is estimated to cost the state millions of dollars a year. Also, it’s hard to bring in new residents when your state has a reputation of lawlessness.
Pritzker said one way to battle this is to stop talking and start legislating. “We stopped bad-mouthing the state and started passing laws that make Illinois more attractive for businesses and jobs,” he said. Moving on to what’s next, he added that it’s time to “root out the purveyors of greed and corruption — in both parties — whose presence infects the bloodstream of government. … We need to pass real, lasting ethics reform this legislative session.”
Though he pushed the need for the ethics law, he also noted that the culture of corruption must end. “Much of this change needs to happen outside of the scope of legislation. It’s about how we, as public officials, conduct ourselves in private that also matters,” he said. “People need to treat disgusting suggestions with disgust.”