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Our Opinion: Governor's air travel must be transparent

Our Opinion: Governor's air travel must be transparent

February 25th, 2011 in News

We applaud the Missouri House for attempting to bring transparency to the governor's travel records and expenses.

Gov. Jay Nixon's practice of charging travel costs to other state agencies was revealed in 2009 by the Associated Press.

We are aligned with lawmakers who criticize the practice as unfair, unjustified and lacking accountability.

In an effort to provide accountability, House members voted Wednesday without dissent to require the governor's flight information be posted on an existing state website. Under the proposal, the data would include: date; time; destination; purpose and duration of trips; passengers accompanying the governor; and detailed travel expenses.

"One of the things we had a hard time finding transparency in is travel," said House Budget Committee Chairman Ryan Silvey, R-Kansas City, after his panel requested the data.

Those spreadsheets were examined by members of the State Government Reporting Program of the Missouri School of Journalism, which reported:

• State agencies paid nearly $400,000 dollars to finance airplane flights for Nixon during his first two years as governor.

• Nixon took taxpayer-financed airplane trips an average of one out of every three days in 2009 and 2010.

• The last time that the governor's own office budget is identified as paying for one of Nixon's flights was a trip on Jan. 31, 2009.

• Although the Legislature provides the governor with funds to cover his office expenses, the information lists more than 250 flights in which other agencies were billed for trips by Nixon, his wife, top staff aides and his personal security.

• The purpose for several of the trips is listed as "press conference" or just "meeting."

We find it hypocritical when the governor instructs other agencies to tighten their budgets while skimming from them to protect his own coffers.

The time has come for the flying freeloader to pay his own way.