Blago corruption price tag in the billions

December 7, 2011 (CHICAGO)

During sentencing Wednesday, Judge James Zagel said that the harm Blagojevich did is measured in public confidence and integrity, not money or property. In fact, however, the price tag of Blagojevich's corruption runs into the billions.

An average month in Illinois for the past forty years has seen three public officials or their cronies convicted of corruption, according to recent research by the University of Illinois-Chicago.

Graft is estimated to cost each family in the state almost $110 a year, totaling $500 million a year.

"I feel terrible for the governor's children, but there are 4.4 million families, all with children in the State of Illinois, who will be working for decades to pay off the cost of his administration," said John Tillman, CEO of the Illinois Policy Institute.

That cost, according to a research study just released by the Illinois Policy Institute, shows a stunningly high figure attached to Blagojevich's wrongdoing.

The report criticizes Illinois' fallen governor for public grandstanding by funding programs aimed at winning votes - robbing those in need and saddling Illinois with terrible finances.

"We went and looked at his policies that he advanced for his political gain, all passed through the legislature - the $10 billion in bonded debt, another $4.4 billion of policies that we can't afford," said Tillman. "We are in a deficit spending mode and he opened the door to that and it's accelerated since he's left office."

The data cites Blagojevich's disregard for state pensioners by diverting $3 billion from them to his pet projects; operating in a culture of state deficits to appease voters; expanding health and prescription benefits, including an ill-fated flu vaccine program costing hundreds of millions; along with headline grabbing lawsuits and expensive programs and signage that kept his name out front.

The total cost of corruption: $14 billion.

"Those bonds are being paid off every year by the taxpayers and they won't be finished being paid off by the terms of that agreement until 2033. So Governor Blagojevich is going to be out in 2025 if he serves the entire sentence. We are still going to be paying as a society until 2033 and beyond to say nothing of the cost to our reputation that has not only gone national for being the corruption leader in the country but worldwide," said Tillman.

Blagojevich's legacy - the cost of corruption - will last for a generation and maybe longer, according to the study.

In their conclusion, researchers said that Blagojevich was not alone in the policy ideas he promoted, reminding us that he had a general assembly behind him pushing and approving those plans and that some of those lawmakers remain in office.

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