Legislative leaders flying high

Illinois Policy Institute –

It costs $21 for a lawmaker to take the train between Chicago and Springfield, or about $65 for them to drive.

But it costs taxpayers $4,060 when lawmakers choose to fly a six-seat executive airplane between the two cities.

Despite the enormous cost difference, the presiding officers of both the Illinois House and Senate are choosing to fly in the taxpayer-funded executive planes.

The practice has been going on for decades, but as the state struggles to pay its bills some are wondering if it is something Illinois can afford.

“Would getting rid of these planes solve the state’s budget problems? No. But it is of enormous symbolic value. The leaders seem unwilling to sacrifice,” said state Rep. Bill Mitchell, R-Forsyth, who has introduced legislation to eliminate most of the state’s fleet of executive aircraft.

But Steve Brown a spokesman for House Speaker Michael Madigan called Mitchell’s bill a “cheap publicity stunt.”

“I guess if you think a state as large as Illinois doesn’t need airplanes for state officials to get around, then you must be Bill Mitchell’s type of person,” he said.

One of the people co-sponsoring the legislation is state Rep. Don Moffitt, R-Gilson.

“I am sponsoring this because I think it will save the taxpayers money,” Moffitt said. “I take Amtrak whenever I can. If that is not available, I drive. As lawmakers, we have a responsibility to set a good example. … Now, having said that, I can’t speak to what the speaker of the House or the Senate president should do. I can only speak for myself.”

Moffitt said he has used state airplanes twice during his 21-year legislative career because there wasn’t a convenient alternative, and Mitchell said he has never flown on a state plane.

Using the state’s open records laws, the Illinois News Network obtained copies of the flight logs for the state’s four legislative leaders from July 1, 2012, through June 30, 2013.

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