When it comes to the need for reducing the number of local governments in Illinois, residents are tired of waiting.
That’s why lawmakers in the state Senate finally should take decisive action and vote in favor of House Bill 4637, which would be a step toward that goal.
The bill, which could come for a vote as soon as Tuesday, would allow township officials or electors – as township residents are called – in Lake and McHenry counties to put a referendum on the ballot that would give voters a say in whether their local township should be eliminated.
The voters’ decision would be binding, and if they supported the elimination of their township, that form of government’s limited responsibilities would be absorbed by county government, which already performs most of the same functions as townships.
Defenders of township government are adept at coming up with excuses for why these vestigial administrative governments still are necessary.
They also keep coming up with excuses for why the public should not be able to vote on how they are governed. Perhaps because they suspect that, if given the chance, voters would say they no longer wish to pay to maintain township government.
The latest flimsy excuse to keep the public from voting is that this legislation does not provide for what will happen to township general assistance programs if they are eliminated.
There’s certainly an opportunity to address the mechanics of what will be done with township general assistance funds in future legislation. As for who will fill this role in the community, both Lake and McHenry counties have many charitable organizations, including churches and other nonprofit organizations, that already work hard to assist those in need in the community. We don’t also need a government body dedicated to that activity.
The real facts of this situation are that property taxes in our communities are too high, and paid to too many local governments whose leaders avoid accountability exactly because there are so many governments. Residents clearly are demonstrating that their patience with this situation is at an end – they are voting with their feet by moving away.
So spare us the delay tactics calling for studies. We have had years to see the effects of too much government, too many union labor contracts, too many salaried elected officials, too many pensions.
If there are peculiarities of general assistance programs that require further legislation to solve, there is plenty of time to do that. What we need now is a plan to let local voters determine how many governments serve them – and collect taxes from them.