As the Illinois Legislature searches for ways to provide taxpayers relief, everything must be on the table. That is why I have introduced House Bill 261, which will remove the state unfunded mandate requiring local units of government to publish public notices in newspapers. HB261 will save local units of government and taxpayers’ money by allowing public notices to be placed on government websites instead of in newspapers.
I believe this is a common sense reform that increases government transparency. Local governments can easily spend tens of thousands of taxpayer dollars on these publications. The internet is a more cost effective approach and allows everyone increased and continual access to information.
This is the 21st century after all. The least we can do is bring our requirements up to the 20th century.
Your tax dollars are paying for a service that local governments can provide at no cost. That is called waste. One quick example that happens all over Illinois: Boone County spent over $17,000 in 2013 on assessment publications for property taxpayers who had an assessed value change. That’s $17,000 to publish assessment information. Currently, a resident receives notification in the mail of changes in assessed value and Boone County has property assessment information on their website every day.
We should not financially punish local governments that are accountable and transparent to their taxpayers; therefore, why do we require local governments to pay more to put this information in the newspaper that will be published and viewable only once?
The answer is the newspapers lobby. Yes they have lobbyists in Springfield looking to get their cut of taxpayer money. The newspaper lobby claims they are increasing accountability and transparency by fighting for these types of notices to be filed in the paper. Articles written by some journalists claim my proposal will decrease government transparency. That is utterly false.
The only thing that will be affected is the profits of newspapers. It’s not the taxpayer’s responsibility to keep newspapers afloat. If we are being serious, how many of us are avidly searching their local weekly newspaper to find a fire protection district budget, school annual statement of affairs, taxpayer property id numbers, etc.? If you miss it, it is not printed again, whereas if the notice was posted online it would be available all the time and readily available for public viewing.
This legislation is a step in the right direction. Local governments will continue to operate in public and save taxpayer dollars. As Illinois local units of government face more possible cuts due to budget pressures, I call on the newspaper lobby to think of the taxpayers and be fair and practical.