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Bill to abolish some local townships, road districts moves ahead

December 2, 2018

A bill that would make it easier to eliminate some units of government in two of the state’s 102 counties could be on its way to Illinois Gov. Bruce Rauner’s desk this week.

The Illinois Senate narrowly passed an amended bill Tuesday afternoon. Should it become law, it would give township voters and township boards the ability to ask voters if they want to eliminate local townships via referendum. State Rep. David McSweeney, R-Barrington Hills, narrowly crafted the bill for his district.

The bill’s Senate sponsor, Democratic Sen. Terry Link, D-Waukegan, said lawmakers who have been lamenting about high property taxes now have a chance to do something about it.

“We have talked this to death, about the willingness to do something in consolidation,” he said. “You have a chance to do it now.”

The bill also would abolish road districts in McHenry County and neighboring Lake County that are responsible for fewer than 15 miles of road.

Some Republicans outside of Lake and McHenry counties opposed the measure. Sen. Dale Righter, of Mattoon, said the measure would see a township abolished and then the rest of the county’s residents stuck with that government’s debt.

“Why is that provision in there, and why do you think that’s really fair?” he asked.

McHenry County Board Chairman Jack Franks has been pushing to abolish the Algonquin Township Highway Department amid allegations of corruption and mismanagement that since have spawned costly legal battles and political infighting.

“Our previous road commissioner was spending money on Walt Disney trips, Gucci handbags — complete wastes of taxpayer money,” said State Sen. Dan McConchie, R-Hawthorne Woods. “This legislation, without a fix to address the debt issue, actually incentivizes certain forms of misbehavior under the most scrupulous forms of it.”

McConchie opposed the bill because of the provision that would put the existing debt of the dissolved entity on the rest of the county.

The bill needs a concurrence vote in the House before it heads to Rauner’s desk.

Illinois has 7,000 units of local government, far more than any other state.

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