Bill would limit government travel expenses

Calling it one way to rein in property taxes, Barrington Hills Republican state Rep. David McSweeney has introduced a bill that would limit travel expenses for local governments in Illinois.

"There has been a lot of wasteful spending," McSweeney said. "And if government money is going to be allocated, then it should be clear what it's being spent on."

Spurred by a series of Daily Herald reports on suburban officials' tax-paid reimbursements for lavish meals, travel costs and entertainment, McSweeney filed the bill that would prohibit using tax dollars to cover any entertainment expenses and limit amounts spent on other items.

But some argue the bill is superfluous.

"It's unnecessary, but I'm guessing our position will be neutral," said Ben Schwarm, deputy executive director of the Illinois Association of School Boards. "I don't think it will change the behavior of many boards."

Schwarm said his association provides guidance and policy recommendations for school boards to follow when spending tax dollars on travel for board members. It does not allow for spending for "entertainment" purposes. He said about 70 percent of the state's school districts follow the association's spending guidelines.

"If there were boards that were reimbursing for things like movies that would change, and that's a good thing," Schwarm said.

For his part, McSweeney said the bill would help scale back property tax levies by reducing spending by the various local governments in the suburbs.

"This is important because of where we stand financially as a state right now," McSweeney said. "In my view, this will set an example and lead to lower property taxes."

Besides prohibiting entertainment expenses, the bill would limit the amount of money that could be spent on "travel, meal and lodging expenses." It would require a roll-call vote in open session on the payment or approval of the expenses.

The bill also outlines specific documentation required prior to reimbursement, including itemized bills that indicate what was purchased.

McSweeney said he has lined up a number of co-sponsors, including Democratic state Rep. Jack Franks of Marengo.

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