Lawmakers Call on Nixon for Better Travel Transparency
JEFFERSON CITY - After House lawmakers, including some members of his own party, criticized Gov. Jay Nixon for passing travel expenses off on state agencies, Nixon was asked to respond Tuesday. His answer wasn't a direct response, and he turned his back on reporters without allowing time for follow-up questions.
The House's top Republican and Democrat both said it isn't transparent, and have pledged to block the governor from continuing the practice. Nixon has called on state agencies to cut their travel budgets, all the while using them to finance his own flights on state airplanes.
"If we're going to be cutting travel in departments, we just need to make sure where all that travel is and you're not having cross-over inside some of those departments," Rep. Mike Talboy, D-Jackson County, said.
"I think the governor should be about to fly around the state and should have transportation provided," House Speaker Steve Tilley, R-Perryville, said. "I just think it should be open and transparent and part of his budget request."
Rep. Tishaura Jones D-St. Louis, said lawmakers have an allotted travel budget and cannot bill it to other departments. She compares Nixon's actions to representatives billing the governor's office when they attend his press conferences throughout the state.
At a news conference to announce Ford's decision to invest $400 million in its Kansas City-area, Nixon was asked about the criticisms.
"I think when we allocated some of the resources to the Department of Economic Development so that (Director David Kerr) could go with me to Dearborn last year to begin this process, it was a darn good investment of tax dollars. Thank you very much," Nixon concluded, before turning his back on reporters and walking off without taking other questions.
Nixon's office defended billing other agencies because the governor travels with department directors. His office said he is being transparent in his travel expenses because he is using a public plane and all flight information is public record. Former Gov. Matt Blunt, a Republican, used a private plane and campaign funding, making it private information.
Both Nixon's office and those proposing the change in the budget's language acknowledge the Governor's travel expenses impact all state departments. The departments currently fund any travel related to their branch. According to Jones, funding for Nixon's attendance at sporting events is being split among several departments.