Illinois county board member’s desire to join Missouri quashed by attorney general

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(The Center Square) – Some say the southern Illinois boundary line should be changed so that eight downstate counties can become part of Missouri. Illinois Attorney General Kwame Raoul disagrees.

People in downstate Illinois have always felt more of a kinship with neighboring red states like Missouri, Kentucky and Indiana than they do with Chicago. In 2021, the idea of dividing Illinois into two states got some traction from supporters in 27 of Illinois’ 102 counties.

The New Illinois movement was inspired by West Virginia’s break from Virginia in 1863 during the Civil War. When Virginia seceded to form the Confederacy, West Virginia broke off to remain with the Union as a separate state.

Eric Ivers of Jerseyville, a Jersey County Board member, sympathizes with the Illinois counties that want to become a new state. However, he thinks it is more feasible to move the boundary between Jersey County and a handful of like-minded downstate counties so that they can be part of Missouri.

Missouri is a much better fit for conservative rural downstate Illinois voters than Chicago-focused Illinois is, Ivers maintains. Eight or 10 Illinois counties near Chicago dominate the rest of the 102 counties in the state, Ivers lamented.

“We are subject to people that we totally disagree with,” he said. “Chicago Metro has the majority of the people in the state, so they win.”

Moving the state boundary may be more viable than creating a brand new state, but the process would be long, cumbersome, and daunting, Ivers admits. Voters in both Illinois and Missouri would have to approve the plan. The U.S. Congress would also have to vote in favor of the boundary change.

Ivers had hoped to start the process by putting the question to the voters of Jersey County in the spring election. The Jersey County Board directed State Attorney Benjamin Goetten to write to Attorney General Raoul to determine how to proceed.

In October, Raoul replied in a 10-page letter putting down the idea of a county ballot question. The state constitution does not provide a statutory procedure for the secession of counties from the state, Raoul wrote.

“[A]ny referendum on the issue of county secession would have no binding legal effect,” the St. Louis Post Dispatch quoted Raoul.

Ivers is frustrated and disappointed that Jersey County voters will not get a chance to make their opinions known in the next election.

“Just in terms of economics, it makes sense to be a part of Missouri because the taxes go down,” Raoul said.

A Missouri legislator told Ivers that the taxes on his house and his yard would be a quarter of what they are in Illinois if the same house and yard were across the state line in Missouri, he said. Yes, Missouri charges personal property tax on possessions such as cars and boats that Illinois does not charge. Even so, taxpayers in Missouri are better off, Ivers maintains.

“The setup in Illinois is such that the counties are going to over-tax forever,” Ivers said.

Goetten told the St. Louis Dispatch that he advised the Jersey County Board in September that the “move the state boundary” proposal was a non-starter. Goetten said he agrees with the Illinois Attorney General’s opinion on the ballot question.

“Jersey County residents who actually enjoy being Illinoisans can rest assured that they will awake as Illinoisans tomorrow and into the near future,” Goetten said.

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