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Missouri House wants details of governor's travel put online

Wednesday, February 23, 2011 | 3:55 p.m. CST; updated 10:15 a.m. CST, Thursday, March 10, 2011

JEFFERSON CITY — The Missouri House of Representatives voted Wednesday to require information about the governor's travel to be posted on a state website, emphasizing lawmakers' concern about how Gov. Jay Nixon has used state planes.

House members voted without dissent to require that gubernatorial travel records be posted to an existing website that already includes information about state expenses. Budget Committee Chairman Ryan Silvey, who suggested requiring the travel information be posted, said getting records about Nixon's travel had been time-consuming and posting the details online would boost transparency.

Under the measure, the dates, time, destination and duration of trips would be posted. The purpose of the trip, passengers accompanying the governor, and detailed travel expenses would need to be disclosed.

"One of the things we had a hard time finding transparency in is travel," said Silvey, R-Kansas City.

Lawmakers have begun taking a closer look at Nixon's travel. Earlier this year, Republican and Democratic House leaders said they planned to block state departments from helping to pay for gubernatorial travel in the state spending plan that takes effect in July. The Associated Press first reported in 2009 Nixon was charging state agencies for his flights instead of paying for them using the budget for the governor's office.

The governor's office has billed a specific department and sometimes split the costs among about a dozen state offices when the trips have no direct connection to specific agencies.

Nixon has defended his travel. Previously, the governor said it was both appropriate and efficient to bill departments, especially when agency officials accompany him on trips related to issues they oversee.

Nixon also contrasted his approach — in which the costs, passenger lists and destinations of his flights are a public record — with that of his predecessor. Former Gov. Matt Blunt traveled on private planes that were paid for using campaign funds, which saved the state money but did not allow others to know who was flying with him. Blunt used a state airplane after announcing that he would not seek re-election.

The gubernatorial travel portion was part of a broader bill that expands the information on the Missouri Accountability Portal. Under the bill given first-round approval Wednesday, details about school districts and municipal and county governments also would be posted to the website. Among the information to be posted online would be the budgets for local governments and the salaries, benefits and extra duty compensation of employees.

The legislation needs another vote before moving to the state Senate.

 


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