Illinoisans have a reluctant love affair -- or perhaps an unhappy arranged marriage -- with government. With more than 8,400 government taxing bodies, Illinois tops the nation. The city of Chicago on its own has almost 2,000 units of government. There is a government entity for nearly every part of civic life.
No other state comes remotely close to Illinois' tally for government taxing bodies.
If you are a Chicagoan, name every position and person who you elect to the city council, the Illinois House and Senate, Congress, the Cook County Board of Commissioners, Cook County-wide offices, the Board of Review, and the Metropolitan Water Reclamation District. If you are in the suburbs, add to this list your school board or boards, the community college board, the library board, the park district board, the township, and maybe one or two other special districts.
Many of these governments overlap each other, so it's hard to know where the authority lies or who to talk to when there's a problem. Plus, having so many different governments can be expensive. Taxes from various entities add up, and the variances within and among municipalities make the particulars confusing.
But these government units employ a lot of people and, historically, have been used as patronage havens by politicians who have favors to return. That makes eliminating these micro-bureaucracies a tough task, no matter how much taxpayers might save.
Perhaps the state's high government count has helped Illinois consistently secure a place near the top of just about every "Most Government Corruption" lists. This doesn't just cost the state in damage to its reputation. There's a dollar amount, according to this study by Public Administration review. Every Illinoisan pays roughly $1,300 annually to cover government abuse.