Editorial: Senate should support ballot measure on future of lieutenant governor

Obscured amid all the budget hyperbole coming out of Springfield as the legislative session rushes to a close is a not-insignificant measure that could save the state $2.8 million in its first year and $1.5 million every year after that.

True, taken from a spending plan in the range of $37 billion, that's not a huge savings, but eliminating the state's lieutenant governor would be a signal that we're serious about finding every opportunity for eliminating unnecessary expenses.

Last February, Barrington Hills Republican David McSweeney refiled legislation he first proposed in 2013 to let voters decide whether to eliminate the lieutenant governor's office. Questions about succession plagued earlier versions, so McSweeney returned with a plan that would make the highest-ranking officer in state government of the same party as the governor next in line to succeed him or her.

Then came questions about expense. Current law requires the state to send every household in the state information about any ballot item that would change the Constitution. That expense clearly would eat into, or at least delay, the savings resulting from removing the office, which costs about $1.5 million annually.

So now McSweeney has returned with an amendment that would eliminate the mailing requirement only for ballot measures involving elimination of the lieutenant governor's office.

It would instead call for description of the ballot proposal online and in newspaper public notices and, says McSweeney, would save $1.3 million. It passed the House 112-0 and has moved to the Senate, where Villa Park Democrat Tom Cullerton is a chief sponsor of the effort to eliminate the office.

It's important to emphasize that this legislation doesn't eliminate the lieutenant governor's office. It merely would create a ballot measure on which voters would decide the office's fate. If voters think it's worthwhile to spend $1.5 million a year for an office whose duties are so undefined that one lieutenant governor resigned out of boredom, they'll have the option to support it. But we, like McSweeney, Cullerton and scores of other lawmakers, think they'll go for the savings.

At least, we agree, they should have the option.

The first step toward giving it to them came with passage of the measures in the House. Now, we're counting on the Senate to do its part.

And, once this job is complete, perhaps we'll finally be able to take up another small but not insignificant structural efficiency in state government that has languished for years as an idea almost everyone expresses support for but no one seems willing to champion - consolidation of the state comptroller and treasurer's offices.

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