It seems the rest of Illinois has had enough of the domination of the General Assembly by the populous Cook County Democratic contingent. On November 22, 2011, Rep. James Mitchell and Rep. Adam Brown, submitted HJR00052, a House Joint Resolution that would establish a statewide referendum on the issue of separating Chicago and Cook County from the State of Illinois, and admitting it as the 51st state of the union.
The resolution cites the fact that the population of Cook County alone is roughly equal to the population of the rest of the state, and notes that the values of Cook County are far different from those of the rest of the state. Precedent for the resolution comes from the establishment of the State of Maine, which at one time was part of Massachussetts, but was split off into its own state, in the fashion these legislators are proposing now.
In some respects it makes sense. After Governor Quinn was elected, downstaters started calling him 3-county Quinn, because that is the only number of counties he won out of a possible 102, yet it was sufficient for him to become the elected governor.
It’s easy to see that the rest of Illinois feels as though they have no voice in the state’s business.
But what are the implications of this resolution, aside from the politics?
Chicago provides water to counties outside of Cook County. Currently, this is considered intrastate commerce. Should Cook County become its own state, it would become interstate commerce, subject to the federal rules and regulations that apply.
Chicago and Cook County both have home rule powers, but they are limited by statute. If Cook County became a state, it would have full authority to tax, pass laws and go into as much debt as it pleases.
Public transportatrion is another area that would be affected. PACE, Metra and the CTA all receive state funding for capital projects, as well as a portion of state taxes as a subsidy to offset their operating costs. Though Metra goes into Wisconsin, the other transit agencies operate only in the state. However, the portion of the gas tax they receive comes from the collar counties into which they run their trains and buses.
The counties serviced by these agencies that are outside of Cook, would undoubtedly have to cough up more money to keep these services rolling.
And then there’s the highways. The State of Illinois pays for the highway maintenance with taxes imposed on state residents and grants from the federal government. Cook County would have to maintain its own portion of these roads, not to mention policing them, if it were to become a state.
More entertaining, if this movement gains any momentum, would be the suburbs of Cook County that have already expressed their wishes to secede from Cook County. Perhaps those referendums should take place before this gets out there or secession may be far more difficult.
But the best part is the name – could it be called the State of Crooks please?
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