Lt. Governor's Local Government Consolidation Task Force Releases Report

After almost 12 months of hearings and consultations with citizens from throughout Illinois, the Local Government Consolidation and Unfunded Mandates Task Force this week released a 27-recommendation report to reduce burdens on local units of government and taxpayers. The widely-awaited report and recommendations were publicly released on Monday, January 4. The Task Force was chaired by Lieutenant Governor Evelyn Sanguinetti.

With 6,963 separate units of local government, Illinois has more autonomous offices than any other U.S. state. Each office and unit has a separate budget and list of operating expenses. Illinois taxpayers, who are legally liable for the entire expense list of the Illinois public sector, have asked their elected officials – including Illinois House Republicans who participated on the Task Force – to study ways to reduce these expenses. One pathway toward this goal, examined by the Task Force, is to remove, repeal, or carve out targeted exceptions to some of the unfunded mandates piled on local governments by Springfield. These include mandates on local governments that require the use of organized labor and collective bargaining to carry out tasks that are successfully carried out in the private sector through other facets of labor-management relations. In a key recommendation, the Task Force asked the General Assembly to lift this mandate.

One element identified by the Sanguinetti Task Force is the continued existence of Victorian-era assumptions embedded in one of the State’s oldest laws, the Township Code. Under the legal provisions of this code, 85 of Illinois’ 102 counties are subdivided into small townships which average 36 square miles in size. Under current law, none of Illinois’ 1,431 townships can be larger than 126 square miles in size. This method of organizing the local governments and road districts of rural Illinois made sense when the horse was the key unit of farm-to-market transport, but after motor vehicles were invented the Illinois law did not change much. Almost all of the township governments now operating in Illinois were created during the horse-and-buggy era, and the Task Force has recommended a series of legal changes to encourage these units to voluntarily consolidate their operations. In some cases, the residents of townships, township-based road districts, and other units of Illinois local government will be given the chance to petition their election authorities for a referendum election to dissolve the unit. Under this recommendation dissolved units will be merged into another local government office, such as a county courthouse, that may be more capable of maintaining operations on a 24/7 basis.