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Congressman Says Illinois 'Payer State,' Losing $40B A Year

Guy Stephens

  An Illinois Congressman says some of the state’s budget woes can be traced to unfair funding formulas at the federal level.

11th District Representative Bill Foster says Illinois is a “payer state.” That means residents of Illinois and other high-population states pay more to and receive less from the federal government than states with fewer people.  Speaking at a public forum in Aurora, Foster told the audience the net loss to the Illinois economy amounts to more than $40 billion a year.  Foster says this leads to underinvestment in education, infrastructure and social services.

“This drives fiscal deficits in the state of Illinois. This forces us eventually to increase state taxes, which causes industrial flight. And most importantly it drives a false narrative about Illinois’ economy, that we’re somehow not competitive,” he says.  

Foster says the imbalance between states can be traced to the way the federal government is structured.

“All states are represented equally in the Senate,” Foster says, “and so from the point of view a senator every state deserves the same amount of money as any other state. That sort of logic does not end well for large-population states like Illinois.”  

Foster says, as a result, Illinois gets less funding in some areas than Wyoming, where there are fewer people in the whole state than in his district.  It also affects the help Illinois can get after an emergency.  The Federal Emergency Management Agency granted assistance to Missouri after it suffered $11 million in damage from flooding this winter. But FEMA just denied Illinois’ request for aid, even though the state suffered $15 million in damage. Foster says the formula FEMA uses penalizes states with a higher population like Illinois.

Foster says he and representatives from other “payer states” have formed a caucus and introduced legislation to make the inequity between states more transparent.  But he says, in the end, the problem lies in the U.S. Senate, and it will take action by that body to make things more equitable for states like Illinois. 

Guy Stephens produces news stories for the station, and coordinates our online events calendar, PSAs and Arts Calendar announcements. In each of these ways, Guy helps keep our listening community informed about what's going on, whether on a national or local level. Guy's degrees are in music, and he spent a number of years as a classical host on WNIU. In fact, after nearly 20 years with Northern Public Radio, the best description of his job may be "other duties as required."