Bipartisan coalition Transform Illinois makes government consolidation a high priority for 2019
An emerging bipartisan advocacy group that pushes for political reform in Illinois held a press conference on Wednesday to discuss its 2019 legislative agenda.
Transform Illinois came together in 2014 as a coalition of lawmakers, leaders and organizations determined to meet the state's "needs of today and not yesteryear," DuPage County Board Chairman Dan Cronin told the audience.
"We're happy to stand here today to say Transform Illinois has grown since that first meeting in 2014," Cronin added. "What unites us is our common appetite for change."
Metropolitan Planning Council President MarySue Barrett agreed, saying that Transform Illinois' progress has exceeded the group's expectations. Sen. Tom Cullerton (D-Villa Park) cited government consolidation as an example of the important issues Transform Illinois addresses.
"Government consolidation is something I've been working on since before I even came here," Cullerton said. "There is a need for this. Property taxes are crushing residents and we need to deliver opportunities to them. We need to drive down property taxes."
Cullerton said the organization has helped pass a large number of bills involving consolidation.
"I'm honored to be here today," he added. "We need to keep moving efficiency forward."
Rep. Rita Mayfield (D-Waukegan) said taxes are just as high in her district as they are in DuPage and other counties.
"I have the same concerns for my constituents," Mayfield said. "Taxes are too high. We need to start with the school districts because they are a huge portion of your tax bill."
Rep. David McSweeney (R-Cary) said there are 7,000 units of government in Illinois.
"Consolidation of local governments starts with school boards' efforts and at the municipal level," McSweeney said. "We passed a bill for voters to vote to consolidate. I am confident we'll be able to pass more legislation."
Sen. Sue Rezin (R-Morris) said that passing legislation does not always solve the problem for which a particular bill or funding was intended, but that open dialogues across party lines are a solid start.
"As you can see, this is a bipartisan, bicameral issue we've been talking about today," Rezin said. "I'm proud we passed an education reform bill and added a billion back to education.
"But the frustration is that the money is not getting into the classrooms," she added. "We need to have sharing services for school administration that allows taxpayers by referendum to share school administrations but nothing else. It's a win-win for taxpayers."