Illinois Economic Policy Institute
The Illinois Economic Policy Institute is a nonprofit organization which supports research and provides timely, candid, and dynamic analyses on major subjects affecting the economies of Illinois and the Midwest, specializing in the construction industry. The Illinois Economic Policy Institute evaluates and generates public policies that empower individuals, policymakers, and lawmakers to make a positive impact.
A new report from the Midwest Economic Policy Institute compares the working conditions of five Midwest construction labor markets: Minnesota, Wisconsin, Iowa, North Dakota, and South Dakota. The report finds that fatality rates are lowest in states that have higher levels of unionization and prevailing wage laws. The safest state is generally Minnesota and the most dangerous state is North Dakota. However, steps can be taken to create “high road” construction industries across the Midwest that improve worker training, boost productivity, and reduce the costs of construction-related fatalities and injuries.
The primary contributor to Illinois’ debts is the state’s massive unfunded pension liability. The state will have to increase revenue by $3.0 billion annually to cover pension contributions over the next decade. But politicians have created another financial pothole that is equally as bad as the pension crisis by under-funding infrastructure improvements. The state will have to increase revenue by $2.8 billion annually to maintain and modernize its infrastructure over the next decade. Illinois’ politicians must have the political courage to tackle its two-headed beast and make the necessary sacrifices today to improve the future economic prospects of the state.
A peer-reviewed study by the Illinois Economic Policy Institute finds that prevailing wage greatly improves economic outcomes for veterans. The study finds that prevailing wage laws pull thousands of veterans out of poverty each year. 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, and nearly 8,000 veteran-owned construction businesses would shut their doors.
The Illinois Economic Policy Institute and the Project for Middle Class Renewal at the University of Illinois find that apprenticeship programs have significant positive social and economic impacts in Illinois. For every dollar invested, the programs return nearly $11 in total benefits to workers and the state economy. The programs benefit employers by addressing skills shortages through a supply of safe, productive workers. Funded almost entirely through partnerships between employers and labor unions, apprenticeship programs in construction also benefit the public by ensuring high-quality infrastructure and products, growing the state economy by $1.25 billion over the long run, and improving the budgets of state and local governments.
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 in about half of the counties in the region. In Illinois, 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.
Illinois needs to revamp its system of funding public education. Currently, school districts rely heavily on property taxes, which has created one of the most unequal education systems in the country. There are alternatives that can be enacted at both the state- and local-level to enhance revenue. Authored jointly with the Project for Middle Class Renewal at the University of Illinois, the Illinois Economic Policy Institute explores raising the individual income tax, introducing a progressive income tax, expanding the sales tax base, eliminating the retailer’s discount rate, recouping surplus funds from tax increment financing districts (TIF), and implementing a financial transaction tax.