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Our expensive Governor

Another story about our Governor and his expensive travel habits.

The cost is mounting for Texas taxpayers as Gov. Rick Perry pursues the presidency, with new figures showing the tab for the governor’s security detail has topped $364,000 for out-of-state trips since his re-election.

Figures released by the Texas Department of Public Safety in response to a public information request by the Houston Chronicle and San Antonio Express-News show the security costs for eight recent out-of-state destinations – most in August, the month that Perry announced his bid – totaled $70,869.54.

They included trips to three key early voting states: South Carolina, where he announced he was seeking the GOP presidential nomination, Iowa and New Hampshire. South Carolina was listed twice as a destination, and Iowa three times. The bill included travels to Colorado in July and to Alabama, where Perry spoke on the eve of his Aug. 13 announcement.

That’s on top of $294,096.34 in security detail costs for 30 out-of-state trips by Perry or his wife, Anita, between his November re-election and July 21, as reported earlier.

Those earlier destinations included the Bahamas for a family vacation; economic development trips by Anita Perry; and trips by Perry to promote his book, meet with business leaders or supporters and perform duties related to his then-chairmanship of the Republican Governors Association.

The tally so far extends only through early September. It doesn’t include travels by Perry or his wife for his three debates or for later campaign events.

Perry’s direct travel costs generally are paid by his campaign, but the cost of his security detail is picked up by the state. The security cost – which also went up when then-Gov. George W. Bush ran for president in 2000 – has drawn particular scrutiny because the state’s in a budget crunch.

There are two things I’d like to see. One is a point of comparison. How much did it cost the state when Bush started campaigning to be President? For that matter, how big a state-paid travel bill was Laura Bush ringing up in those days? How much does it cost other Presidential candidates – Ron Paul, for example – to travel? I’d like to be able to calibrate my outrage here, and that’s harder to do without some idea of the scale.

And two, I’d like to see somebody who is either in the Lege or who hopes to be make a big deal out of this. If everybody was supposed to have been made to sacrifice in this last budget, that ought to include Rick Perry as well. Granting that there are legitimate costs being incurred here, what is he doing to ensure he’s minimizing those costs and doing more with less, like the rest of us all are? Is he leading by example, or is he standing out as an exception? I’m pretty sure it’s the latter, and I’m also pretty sure there’s an issue there for someone to make a big deal out of.

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