Texans have been billed $2.2 million in out-of-state travel expenses for Gov. Rick Perry’s security detail since his November 2010 re-election, including his failed presidential bid and other trips ranging from vacations to state business and political gatherings, according to updated figures released Friday.
The new report released by the Texas Department of Public Safety freshly tallies $199,060.07 in expenses for Perry’s security detail within and outside Texas, with most for out-of-state trips.
The report covers the March-May fiscal quarter. It also includes expenses dating back to the September start of the fiscal year that came in after earlier reports were compiled.
Perry’s direct travel costs generally are paid by his campaign, but expenses for his security detail are paid mainly through the state highway fund, which includes proceeds from the state gasoline tax and vehicle registration fees.
Travel costs in the report include such items as airfare, rental car, food and lodging.
The quarterly report doesn’t include overtime for Perry’s security detail, which totaled more than $2.8 million from November 2010 through February. The overtime total includes trips within and outside of Texas.
The largest recent travel expense tallied in the report was a trip to San Diego, Calif., for $27,143.76.
“It seems like everybody else is tightening their belt, except for him,” said state Rep. Jessica Farrar of Houston, House Democratic Caucus leader, referring to state budget cuts and the potential of more to come. “If he’s asking for us to tighten our belts, he needs to look for a few notches himself,” Farrar said.
Perry and his staff have repeatedly turned aside the idea that he should cover the security costs, saying Perry is governor wherever he is and noting that previous governors also had security.
I do agree that governors travel as part of their jobs, and that they are entitled to security when they travel. It’s appropriate for those expenses to be paid by the state, and frankly that’s far superior to his trips being funded solely by campaign contributors. We have enough of a pay to play culture in our politics as it is, thank very much. That said, it is also the case that we are, as the Governor himself likes to proclaim loudly, in lean times that call for sacrifices and cutbacks. It would be nice if Perry could lead by example for once in his life and save us all a bit of money by travelling less often. The private sector uses virtual conference rooms, NetMeeting, Skype, Office Communicator, stuff like that as low-cost substitutes for travel. Perhaps the Governor’s office should look into that.