Gov. Bruce Rauner vetoes McHenry County township consolidation bill

House Bill 4637 would have given voters power to eliminate townships

On one of his last days in office, Gov. Bruce Rauner killed a consolidation bill that would have given McHenry County voters the power to eliminate townships at the polls.

Rauner, set to relinquish his seat to Gov.-elect J.B. Prtizker on Monday, signed an amendatory veto of House Bill 4637 about 3:30 p.m. Friday. The governor took issue with the bill’s focus on McHenry and Lake counties and recommended a statewide expansion of the legislation’s terms.

“While I applaud the effort to create a clear process that aligns with the Illinois Constitution’s vision that townships may be dissolved if approved by referendum, this is a process that should be available with equal clarity across the state,” Rauner wrote in response to the bill.

Rauner also rejected a provision in the bill that mandates the abolition of road districts in Lake and McHenry counties that manage fewer than 15 miles of road.

“This question of consolidating services should also go to the voters through a referendum, a process that Lake and McHenry counties – and all other counties – can already pursue under state law,” Rauner said.

State Rep. David McSweeney, the Barrington Hills Republican who carried the bill through the Illinois House, said Rauner’s veto represents an appropriate endcap to his final days in office.

“Gov. Rauner leaves office as a liar, a hypocrite, a phony, the worst governor in the history of the state of Illinois,” McSweeney said. “This just shows what a phony he really is.”

Rauner could not be reached for comment Friday.

McSweeney, who championed the bill through the House before working with state Sen. Terry Link, D-Vernon Hills, to push it through the Senate, now will have to start the process over.

“My plan is to quickly run the bill again and strengthen it,” McSweeney said. “I plan to pass that this session. We’ll make it happen.”

HB 4637 applied only to the 17 townships in McHenry County and would have created a referendum process for voters to dissolve those townships at the polls.

The legislation included another provision that could have affected parts of Lake County, asking that townships dissolve any road districts that maintain fewer than 15 miles of roads.

The bill would have allowed voters to submit a petition of signatures – including at least 5 percent of the number of voters in a previous comparable election – requesting a referendum. Another provision allows the trustees of any township in the county to pass a resolution calling for a referendum asking whether the township should be dissolved.

If a majority of voters select “yes” on the ballot, the township would be dissolved at least 90 days after the election. The duties and assets of the township would roll under the umbrella of McHenry County or neighboring municipal governments.

The bill included a built-in 10 percent tax cut, McSweeney said. Any taxes McHenry County levies for the area where the township existed could not exceed more than 90 percent of the taxes levied by former government.

In May, 21 of 24 McHenry County Board members signed a letter opposing the bill and delivered it to Rauner at an invitation-only meeting of the McHenry County Republican Party.

“We respectfully request that HB 4637 be permanently put on hold until our county can minimally address the financial burden to McHenry County, its municipalities and, most importantly, the taxpayer, prior to ever passing this legislation,” the letter said.

Former state Sen. Pamela Althoff, now serving on the McHenry County Board, said she agrees with Rauner’s veto of the bill, contending the legislation should be applied statewide.

“Many members of the County Board have expressed their willingness to work with Rep. McSweeney or Sen. Link to develop a consolidation plan,” Althoff said. “We’ve always asked for it to be applicable to all counties. If it makes sense and it is viable, it should be made applicable to the entire state.”

32nd District state Sen. Craig Wilcox, R-McHenry, said he, too, had some concerns about the bill.

“I am appreciative of the governor’s action to alter the language in the legislation,” he said in a statement. “Doing so gives my colleagues and me the opportunity to bring a more comprehensive bill forward that better protects taxpayers.”