News Local/State

Downstate Lawmaker Explains Proposal For Two Illinois States: Chicago & Downstate

State Rep. Brad Halbrook.

State Rep. Brad Halbrook of Shelbyville, a Republican representing the 102nd Illinois House District. Jeff Bossert/Ilinois Public Media

State Representative Brad Halbrook, sponsor of a resolution to divide downstate Illinois and the Chicago area into separate states, says the U-S constitution provides a clear path for such a process.

Speaking at U.S. Rep. Rodney Davis’ “Open Government” event in Champaign Monday night, Halbrook said the process would start at the county level, with groups organizing in favor of state separation.

“Once a certain number of counties have organized within the state of Illinois, or whatever state that’s wanting to separate, they will declare independence against old Illinois,”, the Shelbyville Republican told an audience at Parkland College. “At the same time, grievances will be written, published and read, about why the reason for separation. It’s not just because they want to. There’s grievances, and that’s just a part of the process.”

Halbrook says the next steps include a constitutional convention to lay out a framework for the new state government, and approval from the Illinois General Assembly and Congress.

Halbrook is the chief sponsor of an Illinois House resolution (HR101) calling on Congress to approve state separation in Illinois. The measure sites disagreements between Chicago and downstate on gun ownership, abortion, immigration and other issues.

This has just been 40, 50 years of consolidation of power into a few hands to where downstaters, regardless whether you're in Rockford or Quincy, or Champaign or Effingham, their voices are not being heard in Springfield,” said Halbrook.

Critics of the state separation proposal often counter claims that downstate Illinois suffers from the Chicago’s influence by citing a report issued last year by the Paul Simon Public Policy Institute at Southern Illinois University. The report cites numbers from the Illinois General Assembly’s Legislative Research Unit to argue that downstate Illinois receives 50% more in state spending than it contributes in tax revenue.

Halbrook said that claim is based on incomplete and out-of-date data. But he said if it was true, it would be a reason for Chicagoans to support his state separation resolution.

“If you’re from Chicago, you ought to be the first in line to ask for the separation, so you can keep all that extra money, to bail out your pension system, to bail out your debt,” said Halbrook.

Halbrook’s state separation resolution currently has six co-sponsors, all downstate Republicans: Chris Miller, Darren Bailey, Dan Caulkins, C.D. Davidson, Blaine Wilhour and Randy E. Frese. Except for the addition of some co-sponsors, the measure has seen no action since being referred to the House Rules Committee in February.