Our View: Consolidation bill offers hope for smaller government

By SHAW MEDIA Published: Thursday, June 8, 2017 12:37 a.m. CDT

Supporters of smaller, more efficient government in Illinois received hope in the waning days of the spring legislative session.

Both houses of the Illinois General Assembly gave their OK to a bill to allow township trustees to initiate referendums to consolidate township road districts in all Illinois counties. The only trustees currently with that authority are in Cook County.

Gov. Bruce Rauner would do well to sign the bill, seeing that it is supported by 84 percent of senators voting on the measure, 67 percent of House members and his running mate, Lt. Gov. Evelyn Sanguinetti, who in a news release applauded its passage.

“We pay the highest property taxes in the nation,” Sanguinetti said in the release, “and, not coincidentally, we have more units of government than any other state. This bill is the start of a larger effort to give both citizens and local boards the power to consolidate government.”

State Rep. Tom Demmer, R-Dixon, who co-sponsored the bill, said it “empowers voters to choose what’s best for their community.”

Demmer added, “If consolidation makes sense for them, they can now choose to lower the cost of government and reduce their tax burden.”

Of course, there are several ifs to the proposition.

If the governor signs it, and if township trustees use their newfound power to put propositions on the ballot, and if voters give their approval, then township road districts can be absorbed by their companion townships.

The concept might take some education before voters are ready for a change.

We note that voters in two Ogle County townships declined to consolidate them in the November election, even though trustees in both townships had talked about it for a while and finally agreed to put the matter to a vote. Lafayette Township voters said yes, 55-35, to merging with Taylor Township, but by a 277-270 vote, Taylor voters rejected the consolidation.

We support greater efficiencies in township government, particularly since the publication of our in-depth series, “Under the radar: Many townships, little scrutiny,” four years ago.

Whenever there’s hope to improve government, provide services more efficiently and lessen the burden on taxpayers, that’s a road local township officials should travel.

Hope, after all, is far preferable to the alternative.