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updated: 4/17/2011 2:24 PM

A vote for gutting governments

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Daily Herald Editorial Board

Do you think township government provides critical services none other could offer? What about the mosquito abatement or water reclamation districts? Do you think Illinois needs more governments than any other state in the nation?

We didn't think so. Neither do we. And we're pleased to note there are some new efforts to do something about our government excess moving their way through Springfield right now.

State Sen. Terry Link, a Waukegan Democrat, is sponsoring one that made it out of committee and is headed for Senate debate. Link's plan would create a commission whose goal would be to recommend local governments to dissolve or merge throughout the state. As the Daily Herald's Kerry Lester and Mike Riopell reported, legislators would consider the recommendations and vote to either approve or reject all of them. This approach, similar to how the federal government has handled closing military bases, seems like a smart one. We would hope legislators would feel pressure to approve fewer governments no matter how loud the howls from vested interests grow. After all, Illinois has 6,994 units of local government. That is not something to prize even in good economic times.

A second plan by state Sen. Dan Kotowski, a Park Ridge Democrat, would allow township jobs to be eliminated by referendum. Others, as noted here before, are pushing to eliminate township government altogether, including Avon Township Supervisor Sam Yingling. After Daily Herald staff writer Jake Griffin recently reported that suburban townships charged taxpayers more than $1 million last year for health care, we are more ardent than ever in our firm belief these governments need to go. Other, more visible governments can and should absorb the services they provide the poor and elderly. The fact that nearly 30 townships offered elected officials free health care last year is outrageous.

The plain truth is there are so many governments in Illinois that it is impossible for taxpayers or media watchdogs to monitor them all. And until taxpayers stand up and demand change, governments and government largesse are bound to bloat.

We urge all who agree to support Link's and Kotowski's efforts and to push for more. We call upon Democratic Gov. Pat Quinn to come forth with details on his budget speech idea to consolidate school districts and to eliminate regional school superintendents.

And then, all those elected state officials also need to stop and look in the mirror. What about you? What about your budget? What about your unbalanced, practically bankrupt state government? What about that Quinn plan to add 800 state workers at the worst possible time? We have too many local governments taking too much. But state government officials stand guilty as charged, too.