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One-On-One With Gov. JB Pritzker: How Population Loss Has Cost Illinois, And What Is Being Done About It

CHICAGO (CBS) -- People have been leaving Illinois for years – and it is costing us those of us left behind.

CBS 2 Political Investigator Dana Kozlov went one-on-one with Gov. JB Pritzker on Wednesday to talk about the population decline.

Illinois' numbers show it has actually been a population rollercoaster for the last decade. But when it really counted, those numbers went down – and it happened on Pritzker's watch.

And while there is no question the past year has hurt Illinois and many who live in the state, Pritzker said there is light ahead.

"We are sending ourselves into a new year on firm fiscal footing," Pritzker said.

But we are also starting the new decade with one less member of Congress – the result if the 2020 Census. The census showed that Illinois lost more than 18,000 residents since 2010.

But a spokesperson for the governor says the decline is actually lower - saying 18,124 is the total decline, but if you subtract the 10,289 Illinois residents currently living overseas, the total population decline is 7,835.

The governor's take was, "We had our census and we came out flat for the last 10 years."

Kozlov asked Pritzker if the fact that Illinois lost enough population to lose a member of Congress was a concern.

"It is, and as you know from the beginning of my time in government, I started addressing that very issue," the governor said.

Critics cite high taxes and a ballooning pension crisis as the reasons people are leaving the state. Pritzker blames the anti-Illinois sentiment of conservative groups and lawmakers.

But a study by the Chicago Metropolitan Agency for Planning shows exiting Illinoisans are moving to Wisconsin, Indiana, Florida, California, and Texas – the last of which picked up two congressional seats.

"The reality is we have a lot of work to do – to get our house in order, to get our budget in order, to make sure we pay our bills," Pritzker said. "We're making that progress."

Illinois is one of only three states to lose population over the past decade. The governor also said he has put programs in place to reverse that trend, such as incentives for people to attend college in-state.


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