Illinois Gov. JB Pritzker presented his State of the State address last week, and it typically touched on a dozen or more issues facing the state and its legislators.
Pritzker noted the new program designed to fix Illinois highways — and anyone who has driven more than 5 miles on just about any state road knows the dire need for that program.
The governor also pointed out efforts at pension reform, an issue that burdens Illinois with staggering debt and threatens future generations with difficult choices on how to pay for those pensions. He mentioned the bipartisan effort to craft a remedy, one that many hope will become a reality.
And tucked away toward the end of his speech, Pritzker brought up an idea that could ripple through almost every issue facing Illinois and, if reforms are put into motion, should set off a wave of benefits for everyone.
Here’s what the governor said:
“Property taxes in Illinois are simply too high. That’s why it’s time to put the best ideas to work from both sides of the aisle. Local governments continue to max out their levies even when they don’t need to. There are perverse incentives in state law that encourage that. We can change the law to support local governments and lower property taxes. And with nearly 7,000 units of government in Illinois, it’s time to empower local taxpayers to consolidate or eliminate them. These changes, along with our landmark pension reform that consolidated police and firefighter pensions, can make a serious dent in property taxes.”
Consolidation of governmental bodies is something public officials must examine honestly and be brave enough to tackle even if it means the elimination of their own positions.
Private industry has gone through this process for more than a decade and, as technology continues to change, will continue to do for years to come. Simply put, technology allows businesses to do the same work with fewer people.
Government needs to adopt the same philosophy. That’s a tough task in a state such as Illinois where the opportunity of patronage — the hiring of “qualified” friends and awarding lucrative contracts — creates significant power for those in charge.
Redundant levels of state, county and local government can be consolidated in fewer, more efficient and less costly operations. That, in turn, will help reduce property taxes as Pritzker noted in his speech, allowing Illinois residents to spend more money on themselves and so boost the state’s economy.
Government consolidation isn’t a topic we’ll hear much about in the year ahead, but we should. Putting such efforts into motion will make Illinois a better place for us all.