Gov. Rod Blagojevich’s "daily flights to nowhere"

If the governor was actually out trying to get the budget passed, that would be one thing. But this is clearly for show. The governor intends to shut down the state, ala Bill Clinton versus Newt Gingrich. Problem is this. Governor, you are no Bill Clinton.

Even more important Governor, Speaker Madigan is no Newt Gingrich.

In other words, you are in a lose, lose situation. And Madigan is in a win, win situation.

But you will need to learn the hard way.

So please, enough with the “daily flights to nowhere,” especially when you have no intention of working out a budget.

John Presta.

Crain’s Chicago Business reports the following about our governor.
Gov spent $76,000 on trips to capital: analysis

June 20, 2007

(AP) — Gov. Rod Blagojevich’s practice of flying from Chicago to Springfield and back for daily budget negotiations is costing taxpayers more than $5,800 a day, for a total of roughly $76,000 and climbing.

An Associated Press analysis of state flight records shows Blagojevich made eight round trips on state airplanes from May 22 to June 7. He spent an average of less than five hours in Springfield each time, including travel time to and from the capital airport.

On a ninth trip, he stayed over two nights as lawmakers tried to meet their May 31 budget-approval deadline.

The cost of the travel was $52,540.

Since then, Blagojevich has appeared to follow the same pattern, making at least four more round trips to Springfield. Detailed records are not available, but averages from previous day trips suggest an additional cost of $23,300.

Several of the flights came while Blagojevich aides were admonishing lawmakers for not spending enough time in the Capitol negotiating a budget for the fiscal year that begins July 1.

“There’s not a single person back home who doesn’t recognize the enormous waste of that type of travel,” said Sen. Chris Lauzen, an Aurora Republican who serves as co-chairman of the Legislative Audit Commission. The price is “more than it costs for a teacher in Illinois,” he said.

Past governors have either lived in Springfield or stayed in the capital 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.

Blagojevich’s office did not respond to repeated requests for comment.

The Illinois Department of Transportation charges state agencies just 41 cents a mile per passenger for flights from Chicago to Springfield. And users are not charged anything for the plane flying empty to pick them up or to return to its Springfield hangar after dropping them off in Chicago.

But Auditor General William Holland found in an audit released in January that the actual cost of flying the plane is $9.81 per mile.

The governor’s office was charged $1,098 for Blagojevich’s flights. But using Holland’s formula, flights for which official records are available actually cost $52,540.

Officials had hoped to pass a new budget by May 31, but the Democrats who dominate Illinois government remain deadlocked. State services could be endangered if a budget isn’t approved by month’s end.

Deputy Gov. Sheila Nix and spokeswoman Abby Ottenhoff have denounced the House for not working five days a week on a budget during the overtime session. At the same time Blagojevich has typically arrived at the Springfield airport at noon and departed at 5 p.m. three days a week.

“His work habits in the overtime need to be more reflective of what his administration rhetoric is,” said Sen. Martin Sandoval, D-Chicago. “That’s physically spending day and night here trying to figure this out with us in the General Assembly.”

Critics have long targeted the second-term chief executive for absentee governing, both for living in Chicago and for spending little time at the Capitol during the legislative session.

A 2005 Associated Press analysis showed a sharp increase in the Blagojevich administration’s use of state aircraft over its predecessor’s. That prompted lawmakers’ call for Holland’s audit, which found commercial flights are cheaper than the state’s.

Including the 48-hour layover in Springfield May 30 to June 1, Blagojevich’s average stay in town was 9½ hours, from touchdown to liftoff.

Rep. Jack Franks, a Woodstock Democrat who last week took to the House floor to criticize Blagojevich’s work habits, said more face time with the governor might end the impasse.

“That’s a real reason he has such poor relations with the Legislature and can’t get any of his agenda passed,” Franks said, “because he doesn’t talk to anybody.”

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