Government consolidation gains momentum, but there’s more to be done

Government consolidation gains momentum, but there’s more to be done

Illinois is taking small steps toward consolidating some of its duplicitous local governments, but bold reforms are needed to start addressing the state’s nearly 7,000 taxing bodies, the most in the nation.

Illinois lawmakers are buckling under immense pressure to reduce the number of local governments across the state, which are a driver of the nation’s highest property taxes. But there’s more to be done.

On Aug. 14 Gov. Rauner signed House Bill 607, now Public Act 100-0106, into law.

HB 607 would allow township boards to submit to voters a referendum to abolish township road districts and for the township to absorb the responsibilities.

This, in conjunction with the recently signed Senate Bill 3, is a small but positive step in the right direction toward reducing the number of redundant layers of government in Illinois, and providing property tax relief to taxpayers. However, there is more work that needs to be done for consolidating units of local government.

Lawmakers should continue to increase taxpayer involvement in local government consolidation. These new consolidation measures only allow for consolidation to be initiated from township boards, which does not give taxpayers any more say in the process. Since it is unlikely that township boards will initiate consolidation, taxpayers need to be given the ability to initiate consolidation themselves.

The next steps should include reforms allowing residents to start a petition for consolidation, which can then be submitted to voters as a referendum question asking if they would like the township to be consolidated or dissolved. Additionally, lawmakers should give municipalities the ability to initiate a consolidation referendum. These are important steps to reducing the burdensome number of governments in Illinois, which has caused Illinoisans to suffer high property taxes.

In fact, Illinois has nearly 7,000 units of local government – more than any other state in the nation – and each of these units of government adds to Illinois’ high tax burden. The average Illinois resident lives under six layers of government, which in addition to townships and road districts could include a city, school district and any other special taxing district, such as a library district or a park district. Some areas have even more layers of government.

What’s worse is that often times these multiple layers of government are duplicative and do not provide any more value to residents. Consolidating could save taxpayer money by allowing services to be taken up by other units of government, such as the county, and eliminating additional overhead and administrative costs.

Since property taxes are the main source of funding for local governments, and with so many government entities, it’s no wonder Illinois has some of the highest property taxes in the nation.

Illinois residents need continued action from lawmakers to make government more efficient and less costly, while helping to bring property tax bills in line with what taxpayers can afford.

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