Illinois Economic Policy Institute

The Illinois Economic Policy Institute is a new nonprofit organization which supports research and provides timely, candid, and dynamic analysis on major subjects affecting the economies of Illinois and the Midwest, specializing in the construction industry. The Illinois Economic Policy Institute uses advanced statistics, reliable surveying techniques, and the latest forecasting models to evaluate and generate public policies that empower individuals, policymakers, and lawmakers to make a positive impact.

Our Constitution: Vote YES on the Lockbox Amendment

The proposed Illinois Transportation Funds Amendment would constitutionally protect– or “lockbox”– all revenue contributed by drivers through motor fuel taxes, tollways, licenses, and vehicle registration fees and require that the money is used solely for transportation purposes. This common-sense measure promotes taxpayer fairness, government accountability, and economic growth. Since 2002, Illinois lawmakers have diverted $6.8 billion in transportation funds to purposes other than transportation. These diversions have had a negative impact on the state economy and have resulted in poor infrastructure. Illinois politicians have wasted tax dollars on bureaucracy and mismanagement for too long. The Illinois Economic Policy Institute urges the public to vote Yes on the Illinois Transportation Funds Amendment.

Latest: Attacks on Prevailing Wage Hurt Veterans

A first-of-its-kind, peer-reviewed study by the Illinois Economic Policy Institute finds that prevailing wage greatly improves economic outcomes for veterans and that growing attacks on prevailing wage at the state level will disproportionally hurt the hundreds of thousands post-9/11 veterans who are returning to the workforce. The study finds that prevailing wage laws not only encourage more veterans to put their skills to work in their communities, but that they pull thousands of veterans out of poverty each year in the process. Utilizing economic modeling, the report also finds that if each of the states with average or strong prevailing wage laws enacted repeals, 24,000 veterans would lose their health insurance, another 65,000 would leave the construction workforce, veteran construction workers would see their incomes drop by $3.1 billion per year, and nearly 8,000 veteran-owned construction businesses would shut their doors.

Our Infrastructure: A $10 Billion Revenue Loss

Poor roads are costing Illinois billions of dollars in extra vehicle repairs, traffic congestion, and accidents. The main reason that the state’s transportation infrastructure is deteriorating is that revenues have not kept pace with costs. The state’s Motor Fuel Tax has been 19 cents per gallon of gasoline since 1993. The state would have generated over $10 billion in additional transportation revenue since 1993 if it had adjusted Motor Fuel Taxes for inflation every year. By passing an inflationary adjustment and then pegging the Motor Fuel Tax to the Consumer Price Index, Illinois would restore funding to sustainable levels last seen in the 1990s. The result would be billions of extra dollars to fill potholes and construct newer, safer roads and bridges.

Our Jobs: The State of the Unions 2016

The Illinois Economic Policy Institute and the Midwest Economic Policy Institute have released a series of The State of the Unions 2016 reports. The reports cover Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Minnesota, and Wisconsin. The Illinois report finds that the number of union members in Illinois has increased by about 47,000 since 2013. African-American workers, individuals with master’s degrees, and military veterans rank among the most-unionized socioeconomic groups in Illinois. Labor unions also increase worker incomes by lifting hourly wages, particularly for low-income workers. In Illinois, unions raise worker wages by 10.1 percent on average.

Our Workers: Low Minimum Wages, High Rents

A minimum-wage employee working full time cannot afford a modest one-bedroom apartment in Illinois, Minnesota, Wisconsin, Indiana, or Iowa. In all five Midwestern states, the minimum wage should be at least $10.00 an hour to ensure workers the most basic standard of living. A minimum wage of at least $10.00 an hour would make housing affordable about half of the counties in the region. In Illinois in particular, the average wage needed to afford a one-bedroom rent is $16.36 per hour for a full-time employee. A minimum wage of at least $15.00, therefore, may be appropriate in certain Illinois counties– such as in Cook County.

Our Budget: Illinois Cannot Afford Corporate Welfare

Illinois currently dishes out $142 million per year in subsidies to retailers like Wal-Mart through its “retailer’s discount” program. The program allows retailers to keep a portion of the sales tax they collect on behalf of state and local governments as compensation for collecting taxes. 22 states do not have a retailer’s discount, and Illinois has one of the highest subsidy rates of the 28 states that do have a program. This redistribution of tax revenues from the government to retail businesses may have made sense decades ago, but the tax collection and transferal process is now almost completely automated. By lowering the rate from its current level of 1.75 percent to the 0.50 percent rate of neighboring Wisconsin, Illinois could save over $100 million per year. Simply put, the retailer’s discount is a generous corporate welfare program that Illinois can no longer afford.

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