Maybe you’ve caught on to the subtle undercurrent of BND editorials regarding state lawmakers and how going to Springfield is akin to a trip to Hades to become one of Satan’s minions. Well, a state report by the Local Government Consolidation and Unfunded Mandates Task Force just added a few more cinders to that pile of evidence.
Numbers still tend to shock. We know that at 6,963 local government units Illinois leads the nation, and we know all those layers put us No. 2 in the nation for property tax burden with an average bill of $3,939 per house. What the report newly details is how state lawmakers adding a few unfunded mandates here, a few there have added $1,119 per person to the cost of local government over 20 years. That amount is adjusted for inflation and means local government is spending nearly 25 percent more than it did 20 years ago with no appreciable change in services or functions.
The top mandates that the state placed on local governments without providing money to meet those mandates were, in order of cost: running nearly 650 public pension systems; collective bargaining and interest arbitration; $600 million in public workers’ compensation; health insurance; and prevailing wage rules that drive tradesmen’s pay to $88,000, roughly double the $42,000 an Illinois factory worker averages.
The report outlines how difficult it is to get rid of all the layers of government. State law is cumbersome or doesn’t exist when it comes to giving citizens the ability to challenge the status quo — just look at the herculean effort it is taking to shed the do-nothing Belleville Township,
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So how do we fix Illinois? The task force has 27 specifics, but there are some general, simple themes.
Defang the unfunded mandates by halting them, reviewing them and giving local government more flexibility over bargaining and providing benefits for their employees. Pass laws that make it easier to consolidate schools. Hammer at townships, including allowing them to merge and letting township road districts, township assessors and townships with the same boundaries as municipalities to be absorbed into larger government bodies.
They don’t include, but maybe should, that the devil’s minions aren’t solely to blame because they are just following their nature. Ultimately it is up to the residents of Illinois to choose to oppose evil.