Why do we need Big Government?

Wayne Horne | 1/13/2016, 5:30 p.m.
When the Lieutenant Governor of Illinois, Evelyn Sanguinetti, released a report last week on local government consolidation and unfunded mandates ...
Wayne Horne

When the Lieutenant Governor of Illinois, Evelyn Sanguinetti, released a report last week on local government consolidation and unfunded mandates it hit with a great thud. The premise that Illinois has more units of government than any other state in the union could only have been news to grade-schoolers. Last February Governor Bruce Rauner created a task force to study issues of local government “consolidation and redundancy”.

One of the first revelations was the uncertainty of just how many units of government Illinois actually has. There is disagreement of the number between three different agencies: the Illinois Office of the Comptroller, Illinois Department of Revenue, and the U.S. Census bureau. The IOC lists 8,480, the census bureau counts 6,943, and the Department of Revenue calculates for 6,027 taxing districts. No matter which number you use it exceeds the next closest state, Texas, which has 5,147 units of government. (No mention was made if there was confusion on that number).

Illinois leads the nation in the number of municipalities (1,298) and special district governments (3,227). What follows also comes as no surprise, according to the report. Illinois ranks number two behind New Jersey in local tax rates paid by its citizens.

As all good studies do there are, of course, recommendations. The first one is to enact a moratorium on creating new local governments. It may come as a shock, but over the last century Illinois has actually dissolved over 6000 units of government but who’s counting. Several recommendations involve the consolidation or elimination of townships or combing some township responsibilities such as assessor positions. Merging township road districts that have less than 25 miles of road is another.

Unfunded mandates imposed on local governments were on the list for reconsideration. It wasn’t suggested that most unfunded mandates be eliminated but that the cost be shifted to other revenue sources paid by taxpayers.

It was an interesting study but only one of many that will sit on a shelf without little or no hope of seeing implementation. It also gave LG Sanguinetti something to do since the only constitutional responsibility the office has is to fill the governor’s position due to removal from office. At this time even the governor seems to have little to do other than oppose the legislature.

The legislative branch of Illinois government is back in session this week. The promise is passage of a state budget that now has less than six months left to go before the next one is due for passage. Maybe they should conduct a study to see if they can consolidate their responsibilities. We’ll see.

One last thing…This last week a website called Wallet Hub released a one of those Best/Worst lists of average credit scores per American city. Joliet ranks 2175 out of 2570 cities nationwide. No one really knows the value of such information because your credit score is based on an individual’s financial criteria. The same website has “experts” that can tell you the best/worst places to live based on just about any criteria. I don’t know just how much value there is in having this information but it seemed like a good way to end this week’s column. Stay tuned…