Illinois has too much government. Time to streamline.

The possibilities for efficiencies are endless, if only our elected officials would set their minds to it.

A black and white image of four Corinthian columns holding up a coffered ceiling.

The envelope came in the mail mid-week. Important notice inside, it said, with a return address from the Cook County assessor’s office. I put off opening it for several days because I didn’t want it ruining my weekend. But, eventually, I had to face the music.

My home’s property had been reassessed and, sure enough, the assessed value went up by nearly 23%. If I were planning to sell sometime soon, this might be welcome news, but I’m not and it could very well mean my property taxes are going to soar because my property is worth more. Cook County Assessor Fritz Kaegi’s letter with the reassessment cleverly noted in bold: “An increase in your assessment does not cause the same increase in your property tax bill. In fact, Crain’s Chicago Business and the Chicago Tribune have reported that residential assessment increases in the past two years have meant only a 1% average increase in residential property taxes.”

That very well might be, but there’s another bit of reporting out there that made me nervous and I’m sure I’m not alone. The Daily Herald recently noted, “For the first time since Illinois created a cap on property tax hikes more than 30 years ago, local governments can seek the maximum 5% increase this year.” A 7% inflation rate in 2021 made this scenario possible.

I’m supporting 10 local governments with my property taxes and I know plenty of communities have even more. The Herald reported a mass maxing out could mean more than a billion dollars in new revenue for local governments statewide.

If my governments and others in the state do start maxing out en masse, watch out. With the cost of living already jumping, we just might see a tax revolt the likes of which we haven’t seen since the one in the suburbs that spurred the cap in the early ’90s.

So, then, why is it that we aren’t seeing any real effort at government efficiency and streamlining? It seems to me this is a significant untapped opportunity that could create oodles of voter goodwill for our elected officials who currently are knocking on our doors and invading our mailboxes and our television screens looking for support.

Think about it. Why am I paying taxes to a mosquito abatement district? I’ve got bites on my ankles indicating it hasn’t helped me much. Why am I paying for three school districts or, more specifically, why am I paying for three sets of multiple layers of school administrators and their pensions? Why am I paying for a township when I live in a municipality and a county that can or could provide all its services? Why can’t the county take up mosquito abatement? Whose salaries am I paying at that pesky mosquito government none of us ever notice? Why can’t Chicago and Cook County economize by making joint purchases for things they both need or sharing equipment they both need and use?

The possibilities are endless, if only our elected officials would set their minds to it. A few of the state lawmakers who prioritized government streamlining now are out of office or on the way out. A few others introduce the same school efficiency and consolidation efforts repeatedly only to see them languish.

Illinois has more governments than any other. Nearly 9,000, according to an inventory conducted by The Civic Federation. That includes more than 850 school districts alone. Yet, a task force created in 2019 to examine local government consolidation and develop solutions fizzled into oblivion with absolutely nothing to show for it.

Smart statewide officials who aspire to move upward would be wise to find a way again to champion this cause and see it through this time. Several state representatives and senators ought to take up the cause as a priority. And our local elected officials ought to be demonstrating and touting efforts at efficiency and doing all they can to avoid that max-out pot of tax gold that’s tempting them.

We can and should do better. I’m confident I’m not the only one worrying about the next piece of tax-related mail to land who thinks so.

This column originally appeared in Crain’s Chicago Business. Read the column as originally published here.