During Rod Blagojevich’s impeachment trial Wednesday, state senators heard testimony that the Illinois governor abused budgetary laws and regulations in numerous ways that wasted millions of taxpayer dollars. You can read the details in plenty of stories elsewhere on the Internet.
What I want to do is remind readers that Blagojevich regularly wasted taxpayer dollars in legal ways, too. That might not be grounds for impeachment, but it paints a broader picture of how the Illinois governor has always thumbed his nose at his constituents. Perhaps the most blatant example of Blagojevich wasting tax dollars is his refusal to live in the Executive Mansion in Springfield. Since taking office in 2003, Blagojevich often used a state-owned airplane to fly home to Chicago every night after working in the state capital. Not that Blagojevich worked downstate all the time; but when he did, he did so at great expense to taxpayers.
Had taxpayers not been footing the bill for Blagojevich’s outrageous expenditures, there would be enough money in the budget to keep open all the state parks and historical sites the governor closed late last year. There would be a lot more money for all types of things, including really important stuff like education funding. But Blagojevich, the self-proclaimed fighter for the people of Illinois, took advantage of his position and fought against frugal spending. Shame on us in Illinois for electing him twice.
At least for the time being, Blagojevich will continue to steal money from Illinois taxpayers, even if he is removed from office as expected Thursday. Dishonorable discharge by impeachment does not prevent Blagojevich from collecting his state pension. He could lose it if he gets convicted on federal corruption charges, though.
It will be interesting to hear what Blagojevich says in his defense during the last day of his impeachment trial Thursday. He refuses to take questions from senators, so they won’t be able to ask him about all the legal and illegal ways the governor has wasted taxpayer dollars while helping drive up the state’s deficit. That’s a shame.
But when the impeachment trial finally ends sometime Thursday, there will be a small measure of happiness allowed for Illinois taxpayers. Not only will our chief political crook be booted from office, but he will have to find a way home on his own dime.
“I don’t think the taxpayers should pay out of the public purse transportation for a private citizen,” said Lt. Gov. Pat Quinn, who will take over as the state’s chief executive once the impeachment deed is done.
Perhaps Blagojevich will jog home from Springfield. It would take him an awful long time, but he can use it wisely by thinking long and hard about all the ways he screwed his state and his constituents. We are saddled with debt and people elsewhere think Illinois politics is a joke. Well, it’s no joke to those of us who have to live with the consequences. And for that, Blagojevich deserves whatever fate awaits him at the end of his impeachment and criminal cases.