Editorial: Why Illinois Democrats should want to streamline ‘The Government State’

By Chicago Tribune

Make your own guess as to how Illinois politicians will resolve their ongoing budget gridlock. Given that legislative Democrats yearn to raise our taxes, and that Republican Gov. Bruce Rauner is willing to make new revenues part of a deal, none of us will be surprised if we’re sending more money to Springfield. Maybe lots more money.

Rauner would be asked to sign into law any bill raising taxes. But after this epic battle of the budget, every sentient Illinoisan will realize that Democrats are the prime movers for any revenue hikes. So while Senate President John Cullerton and House Speaker Michael Madigan don’t always turn first to us for advice, we hope they realize the golden opportunity presented by four bills to streamline Illinois, which we’ve long called “The Government State” for its 7,000 local governments.

Imagine the power of a Democratic (or Republican) sales pitch that goes something like this: We decided we had to raise your taxes. But look, Illinois taxpayers, at how we also empowered you to consolidate governments and lower your overhead costs. Get to it!


This is where some Democrats in the legislature will say they don’t want any part of four government streamlining bills that Rauner supports, even though state Rep. Jack Franks, D-Marengo, is co-sponsoring two of the bills.

But we hope every legislator considers these bills as a small down payment on government economizing, a goodwill gesture to the millions of Illinoisans who will resent sending one more dollar to a state government that, for many decades, has spent this state into insolvency – unable to pay its bills as they come due.

Many of those Illinoisans have read plenty about those 7,000 local governments, a number unmatched by any other state. Many of those governments primarily benefit employees who are piling up pension points for their nicely funded retirements. Last May the Illinois Supreme Court, in striking down an attempt to curtail public pension benefits, noted that governments do have the power to control their expenses. And one sure way to curb future pension spending is to eliminate many of these local governments.

The four bills in question are anything but radical. In shorthand:

  • A Citizens Empowerment Act would let citizens hold referendums to consolidate duplicative or unnecessary governments.
  • An expansion of what’s essentially a pilot program in DuPage County would make it easier to streamline local governments in all 102 counties.
  • Blanket permission to consolidate municipal and township governments that share the same borders.
  • An act removing barriers to consolidation of township governments. Someday Illinois voters will realize that all township governments can fold into county or municipal governments. Until that blessed day…

These and other sound proposals emerged from a study group on consolidation and unfunded mandates that Lt. Gov. Evelyn Sanguinetti chaired.

Her group had a long bureaucratic title. We’ve previously suggested shortening it to “Because of the Pensions.” If this state’s costly overhead isn’t substantially reduced, then paying for pensions will continue to crowd out local governments’ spending on education and other priorities. Taxpayers would appreciate relief from all of the retirement promises those governments have created.



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