The S.S. Illinois is sinking in the Red Ink Sea with no one in Springfield particularly interested in bailing. The only motivator we seem to be able to trust is the politicians’ self-interest, so maybe this line of reasoning can be our lifeline.
Eliminate some of our 6,963 layers of local government and the tax savings are fair game for our hungry, hungry state leaders.
The Swansea village leaders have an initial target: St. Clair Township.
Village leaders want to secede from the township because village property taxpayers hand $517,000 to the township road fund without getting anything in return. Well, they do get the privilege of driving on township roads when they happen to find one.
St. Clair Township is not the easy target Belleville Township was or that East St. Louis Township and Granite City Township should be. That trio’s boundaries were exactly the same as a municipality. They developed tasks as excuses to exist with little public demand for those services, which could easily and cheaply be absorbed by another government if those tasks are really worth performing.
St. Clair Township includes Swansea, but it also has about 20 little islands that are separated from one another mainly by the city of Belleville. All those pockets make for an inefficient administration of government functions.
Besides the road tax issue with Swansea, the township has been a model of dysfunction. Voters eliminated the former highway supervisor, Skip Kernan, who was the source of much of the trouble — suing his own township over whether he could have 3.5 or five road workers. It also waged the infamous Sewer War with Swansea over rates for Swansea taking their waste, a matter that is still in court.
The trouble is, state lawmakers have failed to expand the DuPage County experiment. That county has the power to consolidate government units, and has done so to save taxpayers $80 million. The Illinois House passed a bill to expand that authority, but it died in the Illinois Senate.
Right now only those townships that share borders with a municipal government can be eliminated by a vote of the people or a vote of both the boards. Again, that would include the corrupt East St. Louis Township and the do-nothing Granite City Township.
Which brings us back to self-interest: Springfield needs another $500-million-plus to pay the interest on the $6 billion in bonds Gov. Bruce Rauner just borrowed to pay down our $15.1 billion backlog of bills. Rauner is vowing cuts to make it work.
Give taxpayers the tools to consolidate local governments, and there’s a greater share of the pie for the statehouse’s tax-and-spenders to tax and spend.
At this point, we’d be happy for some crumbs. That would include softening the state tax hikes sure to follow the $1,000 per household state lawmakers just took from us in exchange for ending their two-year budget stalemate.