Missouri governor must also live within his means
The Kansas City Star
Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon has demanded austerity from the state’s departments, its schools and its universities — everywhere, it seems, but from his own office.
A new audit has reinforced old concerns about Nixon’s practice of shifting costs of travel, expenses and even staffers to the budgets of other departments.
While appearing to stay within the budget allocated to him by the legislature, Nixon transferred $1.7 million of expenses to other state agencies over a two-and-a-half year period ending in June 2011, according to a report from state Auditor Tom Schweich.
Salaries totaling $770,000 for several governor’s office employees were spread throughout 14 agencies.
Employees of the governor’s office flew 334 days on state planes. Other agencies picked up 96 percent of the $565,000 cost.
Three departments paid nearly $380,000 for members of the governor’s staff to pay dues to two governors’ associations.
The cost-shifting abated after the legislature specified that no funds allocated to departments could be used for travel or staffing costs for statewide officials. But Schweich still found more recent instances in which the governor found ways to cover expenses outside of his office budget.
Schweich’s audit also raises questions about hotel and airfare charges incurred by the governor’s staff that appear to be excessive and about recordkeeping for purchases made for the state’s Governor’s Mansion.
A spokesman for Nixon referred reporters to the official responses in the audit. Those are perfunctory and unsatisfactory.
On the issue of shifting expenses to departments, for instance, Nixon’s response was that “the office accounts for its operational costs in a manner that properly reflects the nature of the work it performs.”
Ideally, Schweich, a Republican, should have released this audit sooner than two months before Nixon appears on the ballot against Republican Dave Spence.
State law requires that the offices of all statewide elected officials be audited once during their terms. Schweich inherited the task when he took office in January 2011. Release of the audit was delayed because of a traffic accident involving a lead auditor, and troubles obtaining some information, he said.
But any problems with the timing of the audit pale in comparison to its revelations and Nixon’s arrogant response.
Nixon’s style of governing is expensive. He is often on the road and will sometimes fly to three or four communities to make the same announcement.
The governor continually touts innovation and technology. He should employ some of that to get his message across without burning through money his office doesn’t have.