SPRINGFIELD — Illinois has too many units of government, at least according to Illinois Sen. Terry Link, a Waukegan Democrat.

By Andrew Thomason

SPRINGFIELD — Illinois has too many units of government, at least according to Illinois Sen. Terry Link, a Waukegan Democrat.

Link is behind a plan that would eliminate or consolidate some of Illinois’ nearly 7,000 taxing authorities. Illinois leads the nation with the number of taxing bodies. Pennsylvania is No. 2 on that list with about 4,900 taxing districts, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.

“We’ve studied this to death, because Republicans and Democrats agree on one thing, we do have too many units of local government,” Link said.

Taxing authorities include park districts, townships, counties and even mosquito abatement districts. The large number stems from a 19th century law that limited how much debt local governments could take on. That law has since changed, but the large number of taxing bodies has not.

Link’s measure, Senate Bill 173, creates an eight-person commission to study the topic. The four legislative leaders would each appoint two members to the commission, although no local government official could serve on the panel.\

Commission members would then recommend eliminating or consolidating either a specific type of taxing body or individual taxing districts. A majority of the panel would have to agree for a unit of government to be put on the “end” list.

Ultimately that list would come out of the commission and then go to the General Assembly for an up or down vote. No changes could be made by legislators. If the Legislature doesn’t vote on the plan, it automatically goes into effect.

Sen. Dale Righter, R-Mattoon, called Link’s proposal imperfect, but commended him for taking on the topic.

“I have a problem with some of the provisions in here, but he’s taking a stab at what everyone in this room says is a problem, but there’s been a real hesitancy to reach out and make a specific attempt to deal with it,” said Righter, who voted against the plan in a committee hearing.

Others had stronger opinions. Timothy Bramlet, of Township Officials of Illinois, called the measure unconstitutional. Having eight unelected people holding the fate of the more than 1,400 townships in the state in their hands is unacceptable, according to Bramlet.

Township Officials of Illinois is a private, not-for-profit group that represents most of the state’s 1,433 townships, according to its website.

“I think it usurps your authority, your power, the voters’ authority and power and the ability of townships and other local governments to make our case before you as elected officials, or voters by referendum,” Bramlet said.

Link said he understands Bramlet’s and Righter’s concerns, and said he would work with lawmakers to make necessary changes.

SB 173 has yet to be taken up by the Senate, though Link said he plans to ask for a vote when the Senate returns in May from its spring break.

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