Illinois Governor Has Pricey Commute

2007/5/22: Rod Blagojevich headshot, as Illinois governor, photo on black AP Photo

Gov. Rod Blagojevich's practice of flying from his Chicago home to the Capitol in Springfield and back for daily budget negotiations is costing Illinois taxpayers more than $5,800 a day — roughly $76,000 since late May and climbing.

An Associated Press analysis of state flight records shows Blagojevich made nine round trips on state airplanes from May 22 to June 7, and he appears to have made at least four more since then.

Several of those flights came while the governor's aides were admonishing lawmakers for not spending enough time in the Capitol working on the budget.

With the first eight flights, Blagojevich averaged less than five hours in Springfield per trip. On the ninth, he stayed two nights as lawmakers tried to meet a May 31 budget-approval deadline. They missed that deadline, and the Democrats who dominate Illinois government remained deadlocked Thursday, which likely means more flights for the governor, a fellow Democrat.

The state auditor's calculations put the actual cost of flying the governor's plane between Chicago and Springfield at $9.81 per mile.

That puts the cost of Blagojevich's nine flights for which official records are available at $52,540. Detailed records aren't available for the flights since June 7, but averages from previous day trips suggest an additional cost of $23,300.

Springfield and Chicago are about 150 miles apart as the crow flies; the trip is about a three-hour drive.

Blagojevich's office refused to answer questions about the matter.

Sen. Chris Lauzen, an Aurora Republican who serves as co-chairman of the Legislative Audit Commission, called the governor's travel an "enormous waste" and noted that it amounted to more than a teacher's annual salary.

Illinois has an Executive Mansion in Springfield, and past governors have either lived in the capital or at least stayed there while the Legislature was in session. Blagojevich lives in Chicago and prefers to go home at the end of each day.

Lawmakers typically meet in Springfield three days a week, and Blagojevich has been flying to Springfield each day. If he arrived at the start of each week's session and stayed at the Executive Mansion until the end, the cost of his flights would be about two-thirds less.
  • Jennifer Hoar

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