9 months ago from ilnews.org
A new law makes it easier for local government bodies to consolidate or eliminate themselves.
Monday, Gov. Quinn signed a bill that enables local taxing bodies to join rather than continue operating as separate entities.
Before the law was passed this week, local units of government had no authority to absorb, combine or eliminate other units of government. Now, a majority vote from a particular entity’s board will allow for consolidation or discontinuation of various units for the sake of efficiency, fiscal practicality or logistical purposes.
State Sen. Daniel Biss, D-Evanston, was one of two Senate co-sponsors of the legislation. He said local control leads to better results.
“I don’t think this bill is a silver bullet for all of our problems,” Biss said. “But it is a good step toward more efficient government and that’s never a bad thing.”
The bill had bipartisan sponsorship and support. It passed the Illinois Senate with no opposing votes and the House with only a handful.
“We found that the mechanisms in place didn’t allow local government bodies to consolidate together and operate in a more efficient and practical manner and that was just silly,” the senator said. “There’s no reason for that to be the case.”
However important, Biss doubts many government bodies will jump at the chance to reduce their power.
“I don’t think a huge number of these entities will consolidate tomorrow, but some will in the near future,” he said. “The important thing is we’ve given the decision-making power down to the people at that level, who are actually in these towns and on these boards and know what’s best for their communities.”
State Rep. Jack Franks, D-Marengo, helped sponsor the bill in the House and is adamant about its usefulness.
“Illinois simply has too many governments,” he said. “We have more taxing bodies than any other state. This is a way to empower residents to reach out to their local officials and encourage them to lessen the power of government.”
At nearly 7,000, Illinois has the most taxing bodies of any state in the nation.
The reason Illinois leads the nation in taxing bodies, according to Franks, is because local units learned early on that more entities meant more opportunity to have a say in property tax hikes. “Fewer government bodies, fewer tax dollars out of the pockets of Illinoisans,” the representative said.
Franks, who chaired the House consolidation committee, shares Biss’s pessimism toward how many government bodies will take advantage of the new law.
“What I’ve learned is that each government entity wants to protect its turf. It doesn’t want to be the one to be consolidated or cut,” Franks said. “But this at least gives them the chance to make better decisions at a local level.”
Franks said the kind of change necessary to reduce the size and scope of government in Illinois can’t and won’t come from Springfield, it must come from local governments.
State Sen. Dan Duffy, R-Barrington, helped Biss sponsor the bill in the Senate. He said this legislation could help reduce the growing cost of government in the Land of Lincoln.
“There’s just too many bodies taking money from people,” Duffy said. “This will at least give local entities the opportunity to reduce the tax burden of the residents of the state.”
The law takes effect immediately.