Ill. Politicians Blame Gov. Blagojevich for Bankrupt Auto-Accident Fund

April 13, 2005

Members of a government oversight committee accused Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich’s administration Wednesday of mismanagement for its handling of an auto insurance fund that ran out of money.

The $1.6 million insurance fund ran dry in October, leaving no money to pay claims against the state when some kinds of government employees are involved in auto accidents. At least 62 people have had to wait for their claim money and may face higher premiums.

Chairman Jack Franks (D-Woodstock) said the state would shut down a private insurance company if it operated so badly. Franks also questioned whether government employees driving state vehicles might face personal legal risks because of the empty fund. Citing a report by the nonpartisan Legislative Research Unit, he said citizens could sue to collect from the employees’ own insurance.

Daniel Fewkes, a lawyer for the Department of Central Management Services, said the state had reached agreements with insurance companies for many of the motorists involved in accidents with state employees. Their insurance companies will pay the claims and then be reimbursed by the state after the new budget year starts on July 1, he said. He said he doesn’t believe state employees would be held personally liable.

Franks called the agreements “coercive” because the state regulates the industry. The agreements amount to interest-free loans provided by the insurance companies, he said. Rep. Bill Mitchell, R-Forsyth, added that he was concerned that Blagojevich’s budget proposal calls for the insurance fund to get roughly the same amount of money next year.

One option in the future would be for the state to pay claims by taking money from the agencies whose employees were involved in the accidents, Fewkes said. He also pointed out that drivers for the state police, Transportation Department and secretary of state are still insured because they are covered by a separate program that still has money.

Copyright 2005 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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