Do you ever get the feeling that every time you turn around in Illinois some government official is grabbing you by the shirt collar and demanding your lunch money? This week's number explains why you get no recess from the taxman in Illinois. The number is 6,963.
Illinois has 6,963 local units of government meaning 6,963 taxing bodies, more than any other state in the nation.
How much more layered is government in Illinois than everywhere else? Texas, with the second-most units of local government, has twice Illinois' population but 25% fewer taxing bodies.
So when politicians tell you, for example, that Illinois' state income tax is about middle of the pack nationally, they're characteristically not telling you the whole story as to the tax burden you bear.
What the don't tell you you is that you pay the highest real estate taxes in the country, something you may have guessed from a perusal of the number of taxing bodies listed on your property tax bill.
What they don't tell you is that the net result of all of these hands in your pocket is Illinois ranks 51st out of 50, behind even the District of Columbia, on WalletHub.com's list of best states to be a taxpayer.
Thus, the challenge in Illinois is not simply to reduce tax rates, it is to reduce the number of taxing bodies.
The task is daunting because of the problem of concentrated benefits and diffuse costs.
Most of the taxing bodies take a small cut that goes largely unnoticed (do you know, for example, how much you pay to support the Mosquito Abatement District?) which goes to serve a concentrated minority interest of politicians and taxpayers trumping the diffuse interests of the majority.
And so the actual elimination of a layer of government is exceedingly rare.
To illustrate, it was not until fifty years after antibiotics were developed to treat tuberculosis, ultimately on an out-patient basis, that the Suburban Cook County Tuberculosis Sanitarium (Taxing) District was eliminated. And that was just one of 1,500 taxing bodies in Cook County alone.
What afflicts Illinois at present is the out-migration of those productive, tuberculosis-free Illinoisans. The cure is eliminate costly, redundant layers of government.