Amendment 1 could block efforts to shrink Illinois’ 6,000-plus layers of government

Amendment 1 could block efforts to shrink Illinois’ 6,000-plus layers of government

Amendment 1 would empower government unions to the point that their contracts could prevent consolidation of Illinois’ nation-leading number of local governments. Neither state law nor voters would be able to do much about it.

Consolidating Illinois’ units of local government could save Illinoisans on their property tax bills, but the so-called “Workers’ Rights Amendment” could halt those efforts.

Illinois is burdened with over 6,000 units of local government – the most of any state. And that’s not even counting the 852 school districts in the state.

These local governments often overlap to a level not seen in other states. For example, in 40 states residents live under a maximum of two layers of local government. In Illinois, 61% of homeowners live under three. And some Illinoisans live under 16 units of local government.

Local governments in Illinois are largely funded through property taxes – and the bloat of governments is one of the reasons Illinois property taxes are the second-highest of any state.

The most straightforward way to lower property taxes would be to reduce the number of overlapping governments through consolidation, which can currently be done in some cases through the voter petition process for school district reorganization or by county ordinance in the case of other local government dissolution. It could be made easier by passing laws such as the Citizens Empowerment Act or the Classrooms First Act.

But the passage of Amendment 1 could undermine any efforts to reduce the number of local governments in the state. That is because Amendment 1 would effectively put collective bargaining agreements above state law in the state constitution. It would allow expansive subjects in collective bargaining, including “economic welfare,” a term that is undefined in state statute or the constitution. Because of that, public sector unions representing local government employees could essentially bargain to prevent any consolidation from happening.

If property tax rates simply continue to increase at their long-run average rate, the typical homeowner will pay over $2,100 in additional property taxes during the next four years.

The potential to block commonsense reforms is one reason Amendment 1 would likely accelerate that tax growth.

That is just one aspect of Amendment 1’s expansion of bargaining power for government union bosses, who could choose to negotiate over a nearly endless array of subjects. All Illinoisans would be forced to pay the bill for costly contract concessions that carry more weight than state law. Those government union powers don’t exist in any other state. Exactly how much faster property taxes would grow under Amendment 1 is open for debate.

But what is not open for debate is Illinoisans’ ability to prevent that outcome. They could do so by rejecting Amendment 1 and pushing lawmakers to enact policies that will reduce the cost of government in Illinois.

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