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State Task Force Makes Local Gov't-Shrinking Recommendations In Final Report

State of Illinois

An Illinois task force for local government consolidation and unfunded mandates released its final report today.

Credit State of Illinois

Gov. Bruce Rauner created the Local Government Consolidation and Unfunded Mandates Task Force almost a year ago. Its purpose was to find ways to restructure local government functions to save taxpayer money.

It also addresses the issue of high property taxes in the state, which are the second-highest in the nation.

“We have almost 7,000 units of government. That makes us a little bit larger than the great state of Texas,” Illinois Lieutenant Governor Evelyn Sanguinetti said. “We have 1,800 units of government more than they do, and as you know, they’re far more populous. They are far larger. So something needed to happen.”

Gov. Rauner says the report is bi-partisan and would be considered in future law-making.

“There are 27 recommendations,” Rauner said. “They’re very specific and very clear and relatively simple, very straight-forward – 12 on allowing consolidation of units of government, and 15 on getting regulations from the state off of the backs of local elected officials and giving power back to the people.”

Norm Walzer is with the Center for Governmental Studies at Northern Illinois University, which also contributed to the report. He says the number of units of government in the state aren’t necessarily bad, but they’re a little outdated.

“We can do things, like dispatch or other kinds of things, much more efficiently now in different ways,” Walzer said. “So we just don’t need the same structure of governments that we had 40 or 100, 200 years ago.”

Suggestions from the task force’s final report include eliminating or consolidating local governments via referendum and enacting a four-year moratorium on creating new local governments. They also include giving government units and school districts more control over contracting.

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Katie Finlon