Illinois House passes bill to allow residents to dissolve townships
On March 29, the Illinois House of Representatives voted almost unanimously in favor of allowing voters to decide on local government consolidation – a crucial component of shrinking local government spending, which drives up property taxes. State Rep. Tom Demmer, R-Dixon, sponsored House Bill 496, which received bipartisan support – more than a dozen representatives...
On March 29, the Illinois House of Representatives voted almost unanimously in favor of allowing voters to decide on local government consolidation – a crucial component of shrinking local government spending, which drives up property taxes.
State Rep. Tom Demmer, R-Dixon, sponsored House Bill 496, which received bipartisan support – more than a dozen representatives from both parties signed on as co-sponsors. HB 496 passed the House 111-2. The only lawmakers who voted against the bill were state Reps. Robert Martwick, D-Chicago, and Lawrence Walsh, D-Elwood.
If the Senate passes HB 496 and Gov. Bruce Rauner signs the bill into law, residents of townships that are coterminous or substantially coterminous with a municipality will have the right to put township dissolution referendums on the ballot. For a referendum to dissolve a township to make it on the ballot, the township’s city council would have to pass an ordinance or 10 percent of the registered voters of that township would have to sign a petition. If the voters approved the dissolution of a township, the municipality would take over the services, duties, assets and liabilities of the township.
Too many local governments drive up Illinois property taxes
One of the main reasons Illinois has some of the highest property taxes in the nation is because Illinois has the most units of local government in the country. The Land of Lincoln has nearly 7,000 units of local government – around 1,400 of those are townships. Texas ̶ the state with the second-highest number of local governments ̶ only has 5,100 government units despite being much larger geographically and having a bigger population. Florida, with a population of nearly 20 million people, has just 1,650 units of local government, and functions with no township-level governments at all.
Thanks to the high number of local governments, along with other spending drivers, Illinois’ property taxes have grown 2.5 times faster than inflation and 14 times more rapidly than the state population since the 1960s. And since 1990, residential property taxes in Illinois have grown 3.3 times faster than median household incomes.
On top of being very costly to taxpayers, these units of local government are often redundant and inefficient. The average local government in Illinois only serves 1,800 people, while the average local government in California serves more than 8,000 residents.
HB 496’s passage by the House is an important victory for Illinois homeowners and families, but Illinoisans shouldn’t start celebrating just yet.
In 2016, state Rep. Sam Yingling, D-Grayslake, sponsored HB 4501 to expand the local government consolidation powers enjoyed by DuPage County to counties throughout the state. Those powers included combining services and eliminating unnecessary government entities, saving DuPage County millions. HB 4501 passed the House 93-19, but did not make it out of the Senate before the 2016 legislative session ended, effectively killing the bill. Yingling is one of the co-sponsors of HB 496.
Residents should cheer the passage of HB 496, but should also demand that the Senate follow the House’s lead. This would be an important step in eliminating unnecessary government entities and making property taxes affordable.