Why Is Illinois Losing a House Seat? | Bleader

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Why Is Illinois Losing a House Seat?

Posted By on 12.22.10 at 12:44 PM

The Tribune has an interesting editorial on the state's loss of a House seat in the wake of new census numbers, but it wildly oversimplifies the reasons:

Would you come to a state that makes national headlines not only for the size of its estimated $15 billion deficit this fiscal year, but also for its political leaders' inability to dig in and reform how they spend?

I mean, we're not exactly putting our budget deficit on the state-line signs, but then again I've never met a soul who was considering a move—for a job, say, or college, or a significant other, or what have you—who thought, "yeah, the state's fiscal crisis is too much, I'm staying put."

Here's the tell:

Meanwhile, Texas, Florida, Arizona, Georgia, Nevada, South Carolina, Utah and Washington all gained representatives.

Arizona sold the state capitol building. And while their budget deficit isn't nearly as bad as Illinois's, they're in a panic, too. Florida's deficit is in the billions. Nevada—America's leader in bankruptcies, foreclosures, and unemployment—is also facing a massive deficit. Texas? Down in a hole.

Illinois's budget deficit is arguably the worst in the country—41% of the state's budget, according to this WSJ breakdown—but the states that gained representatives aren't all models of fiscal probity. Arizona's gap is 36.6% of the budget. Georgia's is 26.2%. Florida's is 20.2%. Texas's is 10.2%. Ohio's is 11.3%, and they lost two seats.

And Illinois has been losing House seats for years. This great Washington Post graphic allows you to go back through history and watch the state bleed seats. 2000 census: one seat. 1990: two seats. 1980: two seats. 1970: no change. 1960: one seat. 1950: one seat. 1940: one seat. 1930: no change. (We did gain two seats in 1910!)

Texas, the big winners in this year's round, has been gaining seats at every reapportionment. That'll happen when you're right next to the biggest immigration source.

Over at Capitol Fax, Rich Miller makes a similar point. It's true that Illinois is screwed up, and our fiscal situation may be the worst in the country. But blaming that for the loss of a House seat is a huge reach.

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