Illinois House bill would bar governments from using taxes to fight consolidation

Illinois House bill would bar governments from using taxes to fight consolidation

A proposal in the Illinois House would stop local government leaders from using public resources to fight efforts to consolidate any government unit.

Public servants should not use the public’s time or money to stop cuts to Illinois’ many layers of government, and if they do there should be a penalty, according to a new Illinois House bill.

State Rep. Sam Yingling, D-Grayslake, introduced House Bill 2207 on Feb. 7. The measure would prohibit any public body with taxing authority form using tax dollars to obstruct, fight, or challenge initiatives that look to consolidate or dissolve that unit of government.

The bill also includes penalties for local governments that violate the ban. Under HB 2207, the state comptroller would withhold state funds from a government unit until it suspended any efforts to interfere with taxpayers’ consolidation campaigns.

Illinois has nearly 7,000 units of government, more than any other state in the nation. Maintaining that much bureaucracy is costly, and it is one of the main drivers of Illinois’ high property tax burden.

In 2018, Yingling proposed the Township Modernization and Consolidation Act, which would have allowed Illinois counties to dissolve their townships by voter referendum, brought either by citizen petition or county ordinance. The biggest opponents of Yingling’s proposed Act? Townships themselves: More than 100 township governments filed their opposition to it. Despite attracting sponsors from members of both parties, the measure died in the House Rules Committee.

The township form of government is archaic, often wasteful and prone to corruption. Yet Illinois’ more than 1,400 townships still constitute roughly 20 percent of the state’s government units. Township consolidation in Illinois has long been a bipartisan cause.

State Rep. David McSweeney, R-Barrington Hills, introduced another proposal last year that would have eased the process for residents looking to abolish their townships. That bill would have been limited to townships in McHenry County. Former Gov. Bruce Rauner vetoed the bill, citing its limited scope.

Fortunately, McSweeney reintroduced his bill in January. It attracted chief co-sponsorships from state Reps. Jonathan Carroll, D-Northbrook; Sam Yingling, D-Grayslake; Mark Batinick, R-Plainfield; and Allen Skillicorn, R-East Dundee.

Across Illinois, overburdened taxpayers have targeted local government consolidation as a means to reduce tax bills, trim waste and improve efficiency. In McHenry County, high property taxes have sparked a revolution centered on government consolidation.

State lawmakers should strengthen Illinois taxpayers, and send HB 2207 to the governor’s desk.

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