Rep. Dan Caulkins
Newly-elected Illinois state Rep. Dan Caulkins (R-Decatur) didn’t need to go to Springfield to deduce the state has lost its way.
“The state has just become so uncompetitive,” Caulkins told the Chambana Sun. “I don’t think that’s a Democratic or Republican issue, but rather one for all of us as Illinoisans to deal with.”
Caulkins points to the findings in a new Illinois Policy institute report that concludes the state now has a higher percentage of residents receiving Supplemental Nutritional Assistance Program benefits, or food stamps, than any other state in the region as Exhibit A for his argument. At 13.63 percent, Illinois only trails Pennsylvania (13.64) by a fraction for the dubious distinction of greatest percentage in the country.
“We’re now actually incentivizing people not to work, let alone not penalizing them for not doing so,” Caulkins added. “It’s going to take a huge effort from the citizens and a lot of political capital to reform this system.”
Over the last eight years, the number of individuals receiving SNAP benefits in Illinois spiraled upward by 2.3 percent while the neighboring states of Michigan, Indiana and Wisconsin all experienced trends in the opposite direction. As of 2016, Illinois was only one of eight states in the country to forgo work requirements as a prerequisite to receiving the benefits.
“So many people in Illinois that should be working who aren’t tells you that something’s not working,” Caulkins said. “This isn’t just a Chicago problem, it’s all over the state. We should be focused on helping people get back to work instead of subsidizing them for not working. The reality is we don’t incentivize work enough. Until the government in this state comes to grips with that we’re going to continue to struggle with a system I think needs a complete overhaul.”