Bill would prevent governor from charging travel to other agencies

Monday, March 7, 2011 | 7:13 p.m. CST; updated 10:17 a.m. CST, Thursday, March 10, 2011

JEFFERSON CITY — Missouri's governor would no longer be able to charge travel expenses to other state agencies under new bill language presented to the House Budget Committee on Monday.

Since elected, Gov. Jay Nixon has billed about $400,000 in air transportation to other departments. The presented language would prohibit this practice for statewide elected officials.

The bill language appears on every state appropriation bill except on that for the Department of Public Safety, which provides security for the governor.

The House Budget Committee chairman, Rep. Ryan Silvey, R-Kansas City, presented the changes to the committee as part of his budget bills.

"We wanted to give clear legislative intent that the governor is not to be raiding everyone else's budget for his personal travel," Silvey said.

Scott Holste, the governor's spokesman, said, "It is very early in the budget process, and we don't have any additional comments at this time."

Rep. Chris Kelly, D-Columbia, agreed with the proposed changes.

"This amendment is sensible," Kelly said.

Kelly also criticized some members of the legislature over the matter.

"I don't support all the political rhetoric about it. ... There has been a lot of political manipulation of that," Kelly said.

Silvey said he understands the need for the governor to travel and has included $500,000 in his office's budget for that purpose.

The proposed language comes as the governor's office released information last week regarding his air travel expenses in an ongoing battle with Silvey for travel information. Silvey said he noticed shortly after the governor took office there was a small amount of money being spent on travel.

"In fact, when we would ask questions about it, I asked the governor's chief of staff specifically if that was enough money to cover travel, and the only answer I would ever receive is, 'That is all we are requesting,'" Silvey said.

After investigating, Silvey discovered the travel was being paid for by other state agencies and not the governor's office.

"They were doing it around our backs, behind our backs, not telling anyone about it," Silvey said.

Early in the legislative session House Democratic and Republican leadership said they were going to stop the governor's practice of billing other agencies for his travel. Last week the House unanimously passed an amendment requiring the governor to submit details of his travel to the Missouri Accountability Portal.

The budget committee will vote on these changes during budget mark-up next week.

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