Once-vetoed plan aimed at consolidation in McHenry, Lake counties moves to Senate

A revised plan to make it easier for McHenry County voters to abolish local townships is now headed to the Illinois Senate.

The plan, approved by the Illinois House this week, and also would require townships in Lake and McHenry counties to dissolve road districts that maintain less than 15 miles. The earlier version of the proposal was vetoed by then-Gov. Bruce Rauner in the last legislative session.

State Rep. David McSweeney, who introduced and championed the plan, said he is hopeful that this time the bill will become law.

"It has bipartisan support," said McSweeney, a Barrington Hills Republican, noting that state Sen. Terry Link, a Vernon Hills Democrat, likely will be sponsoring the Senate version of the bill as he did last year. "I don't want to be presumptuous but I hope the governor would sign it."

Last year McSweeney's plan passed both chambers without the broad support of his Republican colleagues. He called those who opposed the plan "hypocrites" who liked talking about lowering property taxes but cared more about preserving their personal "political fiefdoms."

Under the plan, McHenry County voters would be allowed to abolish a township via referendum as long as a petition with signatures from at least 5 percent of voters was submitted. In addition, the trustees of any township in McHenry County could submit a proposition to dissolve the township to the voters.

If a township were dissolved, the duties and assets of the township government would be absorbed by McHenry County or municipal governments. McSweeney said this year's version was slightly refined after discussions he had with Jack Franks, the McHenry County Board Chairman and former longtime Democratic state representative from Marengo. McSweeney said the language of the plan this year emphasizes that if a township is consolidated any debt would still be the responsibility of the community. In addition, the McHenry County Board won't be able to extend a property tax levy that is greater than 90 percent of what the old tax levy extended by the dissolved township was, a feature McSweeney referred to as being essentially a tax cut.

Rauner vetoed last year's version of the bill in January just days before he was to depart the statehouse. Rauner praised the plan for creating a clear process to dissolve townships by referendum, but said he thought the plan should be made statewide.

McSweeney said Friday that he wants to see the plan work first in McHenry and Lake counties before introducing a statewide version.

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