I’ve been reviewing an updated summary of FY2017 legislator travel reimbursements provided by the Legislative Research Council. This updated list includes “miscellaneous” charges along with transportation, lodging, and food incurred on trips to out-of-state events. Adding those miscellaneous charges brings the total taxpayer dollars spent on trips to pro-corporate ALEC propaganda sessions to $19,751.54, about a thousand dollars more than I calculated from the original sheet LRC provided earlier this fall.
Forty legislators spent $79,914.83 traveling to out-of-state legislative conferences in FY2017. That’s almost $2,000 per traveling legislator.
Since Republicans hold 85% of our Legislative seats, we’d expect them to make up the majority of travelers. Indeed, Republicans made up 80% of the legislators reimbursed for out-of-state travel and received 86% of the reimbursement dollars.
But consider: 32 Republicans went on 58 trips costing us $68,502.04. Eight Democrats went on ten trips costing us $11,412.79. Thus, Republican travelers averaged 1.8 trips while Democrats averaged 1.3 trips. Total travel reimbursements per Republican were $2,140.69, while total travel reimbursements per Democrat were $1,426.60.
In other words, Republicans charged us an average of 50% more for out-of-state travel than did Democrats.
The top ten travel spenders were all Republicans, with Rapid City lawmakers Sen. Terri Haverly and Rep. Kristin Conzet each racking up over $5,000 in taxpayer-funded travel to other states:
|Legislator||Party||Total Travel Reimb|
|Mickelson, G. Mark||R||754.60|
The costliest Democratic travelers, Sen. Jason Frerichs and Rep. Spence Hawley, each charged us less than half what each of the spendiest Republican travelers did.
Seven legislators who did not return to the 2017 Legislature spent $9,576.81 before their terms were up. Democrat Scott Parsley and Republican Roger Hunt were unseated in the general election, so we may understand the leadership reimbursing their summer 2016 travel.
However, Roger Solum and Jacqueline Sly lost their primary bids in early June; each went to two subsequent summer conferences out of state and received reimbursement. Sly at least served on the 2016 interim Legislative Planning Committee and Special Legislative Task Force; Solum appears not to have served on any 2016 interim committee where his June and July 2016 trips might have added value.
Legislators Jim Bradford, Fred Romkema, and Brian Gosch did not run for reëlection in 2016, yet each received reimbursement for out-of state travel in the latter half of 2016. Bradford traveled with thirteen other legislators to an NCSL summit in Chicago in August. Gosch went to ALEC meetings in Indianapolis in July and Washington D.C. in November. Romkema went to the MLC annual meeting in Milwaukee in July and a Midwest-Canada energy subcommittee meeting in December. Bradford was serving on four interim committees, Gosch on three, and Romkema on four where their out-of-state conference experiences may have added value.
The award for most expensive single trip goes to former Rep. Mathew Wollmann, who managed to rack up $2,341.84 on his trip to the August 2016 NCSL Annual Meeting. That’s 52% more than the average spent by the other thirteen legislators reimbursed for that trip was $1,540.56. Wollmann served on no interim committees, and then his sex scandal led to his resignation last January, before he could really apply whatever lessons he learned in Chicago to good legislation in the 2017 Session.