Using the Show-Me Institute’s “Show-Me: The Spending” online tool, I discovered some curious trends in the Missouri state budget. One that caught my eye was the budget for the office of the governor, which increased from $165,000 in 2008 to $1,132,000 in 2009:
One category of spending that showed a huge increase was “professional services,” which jumped from $8,000 to $428,000. The main component of this increase is “attorney services,” which cost the office of the governor $401,281. I did a quick Google News search to see if there was any media coverage explaining this increase, but no luck. Attorney services are probably necessary in some capacity, so the question is: What specifically is responsible for this steep escalation in spending?
Another large portion of this budget increase is funding for travel, which grew from $53,000 to $281,000, the largest amount spent on travel since 2000:
According to an article in the Columbia Missourian from last June, state flight records show that Gov. Jay Nixon flew on about 50 days during his first four and half months in office. As the article notes, this adds up to about one flight every three days. I have to wonder whether this amount of travel is really necessary. What’s more, the article in the Columbia Missourian also notes that Nixon has frequently charged the cost of his airplane travel to other government agencies. The governor’s explanation, when asked about this back in June, is that during these particular trips, he spent time highlighting the issues that are handled by those various other departments. Maybe this is justified in certain circumstances, but on one particular occasion, 11 different state offices, including the Departments of Agriculture and Revenue, split a $1,295 bill so that the governor and the first lady could fly to the Missouri-Kansas basketball game on March 1 (their host was Kansas Gov. Kathleen Sebelius). Even if this is deemed to be a necessary expense, which seems unlikely given the current economic climate, why wouldn’t it fall under the governor’s office travel budget?
The almost sevenfold increase in the total budget for the governor’s office is inconsistent with his claims of fiscal responsibility in the State of the State address. And the current governor isn’t the only one who has overseen questionable budget increases; there was a dramatic spike in the 2006 travel budget of former Gov. Matt Blunt, as well. The lesson here is that Missourians should keep a watchful eye on government finances, and that it is important for all Missouri officials to examine their budgets carefully in order to eliminate unnecessary expenses.