Flickr user Kevin Harber (CC)
Illinois has more units of government than any other state.
This week, our legislature took two steps toward improving our governance structure in Illinois.
Illinois has more than 7,000 units of government and claims the title as the most fragmented system of governments in the country. We beat the second place by about 2,000 units.
How we are governed has been the result of decades of creating and funding new units of government instead of adapting the ones that already exist. For the past century, new units of government have emerged when new services were needed or when existing units were limited in taxing powers. But what happens when we no longer need those units?
Legislative restrictions and uncoordinated actions limit the range of viable solutions. The Metropoitan Planning Council (MPC) has been working with a host of partners under the Transform Illinois flagship to develop a coordinated approach to improve the efficiency and quality of public service delivery. The complexity of the issues calls for a range of solutions from consolidation to neighboring governments collaborating on broad issues.
Two recent bills now on their way to the governor’s desk are steering the state in the right direction.
It isn't clear that all 7,000+ units of government are effectively improving our economy and quality of life. House Bill 3747 addresses one such entity by dissolving the Fair and Exposition Authority, an agency appointed by DuPage County. Created in the late 1980s, the Authority receives annual payments to help pay and provide oversight for the DuPage County Fair. However, the DuPage Fair Association, a separate nonprofit, administers and runs the actual event. The bill removes the extra and unnecessary layer of government and frees up hundreds of thousands of dollars currently held in the Authority’s reserves to address more than 600 existing code violations on the fairgrounds.
Accompanying the change to DuPage County, House Bill 228 allows the state of Illinois to hit pause. The bill, sponsored by Rep. Jack Franks (D-Woodstock), will place a temporary, four-year moratorium on the creation of new governments in Illinois. While many units of government create tremendous value for the public, the bill allows us to take inventory of our existing units of government and improve the system for the better.
MPC remains supportive of these two bills and ongoing progress to improve and adapt our governments.