SPRINGFIELD, Ill. – Gov. Rod Blagojevich's practice of flying from Chicago to Springfield and back for daily budget negotiations is costing Illinois 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.
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.
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.