How long will Illinois continue to labor under the yoke of excess government?
Township government in Illinois is a relic of times gone by, a costly tribute to a period in our history when rural people didn't have access to or contact with city folk. Despite its antiquated status, it continues on, insulated by public ignorance about its costly existence and township officials who make an effective political lobby for its survival.
From time to time, legislators in Springfield, looking for a way to reduce costs and streamline government in Illinois, consider proposals to cut back township government. But it proves to be more trouble politically than it's worth, so they back off.
But now that the Chicago-based Better Government Association has outlined the costs and inefficiency of township government in Cook County, perhaps the Legislature will rethink the issue.
The least state legislators can do is change the law making it easier for voters to abolish their individual township, a move that would, for the most part, transfer its duties to their county governments.
Under current law, according to the BGA, voters in every township in a county (Champaign County has 30 townships) must agree to dissolve a single township.
In its examination of township government in Cook County, the BGA found that only 20 of 30 townships filed consistent financial reports with the state comptroller's office, that townships are overtaxing their residents and carrying unnecessarily large cash reserves in their bank accounts, that townships pay higher maintenance costs to maintain roads in unincorporated areas than other governmental entities and that townships provide redundant services and employ too many people.
If township government did not exist today, no one would invent it. Its duties can easily by handled by other units of government. But because townships were created well over 100 year ago, they've become impossible to revise or eliminate.
The BGA study adds fuel to the fire of necessary political reform in Illinois. In a state that is crumbling financially, the status quo is simply not acceptable.