Picture an onion.

The papery coat is peeled to reveal the bulb's shiny epidermis.

Then another layer just underneath.

Then more and more.

We bring up this imaginary onion because we see a parallel between it and Illinois government.

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Both have numerous layers -- and are plenty tear-inducing.

And we mean numerous.

Illinois has 7,000 units of government, give or take. There are the big-name ones -- counties, cities, school districts and townships -- down to the obscure, like cemetery districts, water reclamation districts and regional transportation authorities.

In other states, some overarching entity, like a county, would oversee these duties. But in Illinois, for political and we've-always-done-it-this-way reasons, these responsibilities are divvied among individual boards and a patchwork of panels that spend our taxpayer money.

The argument is that local control ensures better services -- a voice of the people at the table.

What's wrong with that?

The problem is, each layer of the onion translates into a line item on your property tax bill. Each one charges and spends.

Speaking generally, there is no incentive to eliminate overlapping duties, no upshot to exploring ways of saving money, no benefit to searching for efficiency among these groups.

So they plod on, sucking in tax dollars.

In fact, this pungent onion is a big part of why Illinois property owners are wholly overtaxed.

It's not a coincidence we have the second-highest property tax rates in America (behind New Jersey) and the most layers of government.

It's also not a coincidence our state is rapidly losing population.

The taxes burden is just too high. The government is too cumbersome. It's even difficult to find enough citizens to serve on these boards or run for election.

The obvious fix is to rein in these units of government, yet by design mothballing one is borderline impossible under state law, and efforts to eliminate such layers have run into the Springfield buzzsaw. Former GOP Lt. Gov. Evelyn Sanguinetti chaired a whole commission looking at this issue, but momentum fizzled.

Eliminating a political steppingstone and potentially alienating power-brokers tends to be not so popular.

Yet in this new session, legislation is again floating around to address the issue. The Citizens Empowerment Act would allow voters to dissolve certain units determined to be redundant.

Gov. J.B. Pritzker in breakneck speed was able to deliver on his core campaign pledge of raising the minimum wage. Let's see if he or any other lawmakers have the political courage to address government consolidation.

Let the people decide whether this onion's time is up.

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