* From Tom Kacich at the News Gazette…
One of the first things he’d do as governor, Republican nominee Bruce Rauner said Wednesday, is appoint a task force to study Illinois’ state and local government structure with an eye toward reducing their numbers and size. […]
Among his top priorities, Rauner said, is to “form a task force immediately on day one. It’s not going to be long-lived. It’s going to be about a six-month task force composed of county (board) chairmen, mayors, city managers and school superintendents, to form a task force with me and (lieutenant governor nominee) Evelyn Sanguinetti with a goal of meeting to talk about how we bring efficiency through the layers of government throughout the state of Illinois. Today our spending problems and our tax problems are not only at the state levels. They’re at the county level, the school district level and the city and municipal level. […]
Asked if he wanted to eliminate 3,000 units of government, he answered, “What we have to look at is, how can we be more competitive and efficient? I can’t name numbers today. I know we have thousands more units and you’ve got to ask yourself, common sense would say, why? We’re not that different than other states. Why do we need 3,000 more units of government than any other states? That doesn’t make sense.”
Although Illinois does have more units of local government than any other state — 6,963 as of June 30, 2012, according to a U.S. Census Bureau report — it has only 1,816 units more than Texas. But Texas is almost five times larger than Illinois and has about twice the population.
Rauner spokesman Mike Schrimpf said Rauner was referring to other Midwestern states, none of which has more than 3,752 units of government (Missouri).
Missouri’s population is half the size of ours, so they actually have more governmental units per capita than we do.
* But there’s no doubt that Illinois has far too many local governments. And a task force has already taken a close look at the problem. The bipartisan Local Government Consolidation Commission was created in 2011 and released its findings yesterday. From its summary…
By reviewing reports from around the country conducted on the topic of local government and consulting with experts who worked on such reports, the Commission realized that simply reducing the number of local governmental units does not necessarily result in a reduction in costs to the taxpayer. Current findings suggest that successful models of cooperation and consolidation in local government aim to achieve greater economies of efficiency and increase the effectiveness of government at all levels. When the goal is improving the efficiency of service while maintaining service quality and controlling costs, cooperation proves much more successful than efforts focused on reducing the number of local governments in an area.
Additionally, findings suggest that cooperation and consolidation must be approached on a case-by-case basis, as different local units of government have different needs. Working on a case-by-case basis allows cooperation and consolidation advocates in government to better understand the needs and reservations of the residents within the district. Residents often take pride in where they live, changes to the structure and operation of their government must be approached with open communication between all involved parties. Open communication can allow all sides to be aware of the other’s stance, making the end result more acceptable to all. As votes are often required to actually consolidate, working towards a result voters support is essential. [Emphasis added.]
* The commission worked very closely with DuPage County Board Chairman Dan Cronin, who has made headway into reducing the number of governments in his county. Cronin is a Rauner supporter, so perhaps the candidate could reach out. Back to the commission’s report…
As a result of the findings, Chairman Cronin recommended that there be greater oversight by the county with regard to special districts to which the county appoints members. Counties currently do not have the authority to affect these special districts without state action. Most local districts come into existence through local referendum and can only be undone by local referendum. Chairman Cronin believes that if the County had greater control over these special districts, they would be able to put in place better practices and hopefully find ways to save taxpayer dollars.
* And a bill has not only been filed, but has cleared the House. From Rep. Jack Franks…
Additions to Illinois’ nearly 7,000 units of local government will come to a stop under legislation passed through the House on Wednesday by state Rep. Jack D. Franks, D-Marengo.
“Illinois stagnant economy is hindered by local government intrusion into taxpayers’ pocketbooks and lives,” Franks said. “The addition of layer after layer of local government in our state is similar to a gambler who, after losing hand after hand, continues to bet more in the hopes that, on the next hand, he will hit the jackpot. To me, the lesson here is very clear – when you’re in a hole, stop digging.”
House Bill 3251 places a four-year moratorium on the Illinois General Assembly’s authority to create any new units of local government. However, it does allow a government body to be created as a result of the consolidation of two or more pre-existing units.
The Local Government Consolidation Commission, chaired by Rep. Franks, also released its final report Wednesday. The report details the meetings, findings and recommendations of the commission, and represents research and work toward building a consensus between the many members on addressing the excess of local government bodies in Illinois.
The commission’s recommendation to grant various municipal governments the authority to annex, consolidate or dissolve has been filed by Rep. Franks as House Bill 5785. That measure awaits a vote of the full House following passage by the Counties and Townships Committee.