- Editor’s Note: This is the second of a two-part series on the state of Illinois report: “Delivering Efficient, Effective and Streamlined Government to Illinois Taxpayers”
A state of Illinois Task Force recently took a hard look at reducing the numbers of local governments in Illinois and reducing the number and impact of unfunded mandates on local governments.
According to the “Next Steps” portion of the report, the task force was dissolved the moment the report was submitted, but its members have been invited by task force chair Lt. Gov. Evelyn Sanguinetti to promote its recommendations as legislation in the next session of the Illinois General Assembly.
According to the report, unfunded mandates are one of the main drivers of high property taxes in Illlinois. Local governments must determine how to pay for these unfunded mandates, leaving fewer resources for local governments to perform their core mission.
The report said the Illinois Municipal League identified 266 new unfunded mandates on their members since 1982, an average rate of eight unfunded mandates per year. And the Illinois Association of School Boards documented the enactment of 145 state mandates imposed on schools since 1992, more than six unfunded mandates per year.
“While legislation is important in driving most of unfunded mandates changes, significant progress can be made on the topic of consolidation through the promotion of shared services and intergovernmental agreements,” the report says. “Local units of government around the state are identifying opportunities to streamline service offerings. Northern Illinois University’s Center for Governmental Studies and the Office of the Lt. Governer plan to collaborate on an annual Illinois Journal of Shares Services Best Practices to promote good government partnerships in Illinois and encourage replication.”
Whether you agree or disagree with the report’s findings is, of course, up to you, but it’s good to know what it proposes, because it can have an impact on citizens of Kane County. A summary of the 12 recommendations on government consolidation were presented in Part 1 of this series. Here is a summary of the 15 recommendations on unfunded mandates:
(1) Modernize newspaper public notice mandates. (Considered on June 24, 2015; Proposal passed 20-0-0.) This would expand the public notice mandate requirements to allow local units of government the option to post online public notices and other public information. It would expland public document retention requirements to allow local units of government the option to store public documents digitally.
(2) Repeal or reform prevailing wage. (Considered on June 24, 2015; Proposal passed 14-5-2.) The repeal or reform of prevailing wages would provide units of government and school districts more local control over contracting, the report says.
(3) Provide third-party contracting mandate relief for school districts. (Considered on June 24, 2015; Proposal passed 19-1-0.) This would allow schools to contract out non-instructional services like those relating to building maintenance, transportation and food preparation, among others, in a more competitive manner, the report says.
(4) Implement physical education mandate relief for school districts. (Considered on June 24, 2015; Proposal passed 19-1-0.) The proposal would provide local school districts the flexibility to allow physical educaiton exemptions to children for certain academic reasons or to children who are involved in other qualified physical activities.
(5) Provide driver education mandate relief for school districts. (Considered on June 24, 2015; Proposal passed 17-2-1.) This provides local school districts the authority to contract with a qualified commercial driver training school to provide driver education to students.
(6) Make collective bargaining permissive, instead of mandatory. (Considered on June 24, 2015; Proposal passed 15-1-0.) This would allow locally-elected municipal boards and councils, counties and school districts the authority to decide whether employment issues should be mandatory or permissive subjects of collective bargaining.
(7) Eliminate minimum manning from collective bargaining. (Considered on Nov. 19, 2015; Proposal passed 14-1-1.) This would restore authority of a municipality and fire protection district to determine staffing needs — thus reworking PA 98-1151.
(8) PSEBA: Use the federal definition for catastrophic injury. (Considered on Nov. 19, 2015; Proposal passed 13-0-2.) This would modernize the Public Employee Safety Benefits Act by adding the federal definition of “catastrophic injury” to ensure personnel, their spouses and children receive support when the individual is injured on the job and is unable to secure gainful employment.
(9) Allow arbitrators to use existing financial parameters of local government as a primary consideration during interest arbitration. (Considered on Nov. 19, 2015; Proposal passed 13-0-2.) Presently, this is only provided to Chicago Public Schools. This proposal would require arbitrators to make existing revenues the primary consideration during interest arbitration.
(10) Require an annual state review of unfunded mandates on local government. (Considered on Nov. 19, 2015; Proposal passed 15-0-0.) In 1987, the Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity was required (PA 84-1438) to conduct a one-time review of unfunded mandates.
(11) Merge downstate and suburban public safety pension funds into a single pension investment authority, as amended. (Considered on Nov. 19, 2015; Proposal passed 15-0-1.) With 656 funds, Illinois has 16 percent of the nation’s 3,992 public pension funds but only 4 percent of the nation’s population. The proposal would merge downstate and suburban public safety pension funds into a single investment authority.
(12) Pass a constitutional amendment on unfunded state mandates. (Considered on Dec. 1, 2015; Proposal passed 13-2-0.) The amendment should require the state to reimburse local governments (and) school districts for increased expenses relating to future state mandates, the report says. Future unfunded mandates need to be characterized as “not reimbursable” and must pass each chamber by a three-fourths majority.
(13) Requests the governor use his amendatory veto power to insert “if economically feasible” language into any legislation authorizing new unfunded mandates on local governments and school districts. (Considered on Dec. 1, 2015; Proposal passed 14-1-0.) By tying economic feasibility to compliance with unfunded mandates, the goveronor can end future costly unfunded mandates, the report says.
(14) Economic Feasibility Exemption for local units of government, school districts, community colleges and institutions of higher education. (Considered on Dec. 18, 2015; Proposal passed 14-0-1.) This provides a process for certain units of government bodies to exempt themselves from compliance with unfunded mandates when they determine it is not economically feasible to do so.
(15) Give control of employee retirement benefit packages back to local governments for new employees. (Considered on Dec. 18, 2015; Proposal passed 13-1-1.) This would provide local governments the authority to provide blended Social Security and 401k plans to new nonpublic safety employees and blended defined contribution/defined benefit plans for new public safety employees.
SOURCE: State of Illinois, “Delivering Efficient, Effective and Streamlined Government to Illinois Taxpayers”
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