This release came from Rep. Richard Morrissette’s office this afternoon. If the state is having budget troubles, should lawmakers and staff be making out-of-state trips?
State of Oklahoma
House of Representatives
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
July 22, 2009
Representative Richard Morrissette
State Capitol Building Rm. 321
Oklahoma City, Oklahoma 73105
Lawmaker Calls for Greater Fiscal Responsibility
Seeks freeze on out-of-state travel
OKLAHOMA CITY (July 22, 2009) State Capitol. Today Representative Morrissette called on legislators and state agency leaders alike to curtail unnecessary out-of-state travel in light of the state’s bleak budget outlook.
“In these uncertain times it is imperative that we prioritize the economic health of our most vital programs, and therefore sacrifice some of the luxuries that out-of-state meetings or conferences can provide,” said Representative Morrissette, D-Oklahoma City. “I don’t doubt that the information at these meetings or the opportunity to network among peers is beneficial, but there are other ways to obtain this information without charging the state transportation reimbursements or per diem costs.”
Since 2007 and up to July of this year House legislators have attended a variety of events and conferences which have cost the state $132,880.26 and counting. The bulk of reimbursement requests came during 2007, a non-campaign year, and totaled $98,321.12.
Early in the budget process attention was given to a projected 10% decrease in travel of all but public safety agencies. The higher education system was budgeted to receive $60 million for travel, while state agencies were budgeted to receive approximately $35 million.
“I understand that only the Corporation Commission at this time has announced furloughs for their state employees, in addition to trying to cut travel by 100 miles a week,” said Rep. Morrissette. “But I also know that Tulsa firefighters are being asked to take furlough days, as well as their police officers, and I believe that this trend will continue across the state as we all grapple with an increasingly dire economic climate.”
“However, we in the Legislature must lead by example, and resign ourselves to the fact that out-of-state events, while beneficial, are self-indulgent at this stage. We’re asking everyone to make hard choices, but the easiest is to cut unnecessary travel.”
“In the past I myself have traveled to the National Conference of State Legislatures – most recently being the July 2008 conference. Yet that occurred prior to the fiscal crisis we are now in. Since that time, I don’t believe it is appropriate for any state legislator to bill the taxpayer for voluntary enhancement trips.”
Rep. Morrissette will today file a House Resolution calling for a freeze on out-of-state travel for all state agencies, the Legislature and higher education, unless deemed official state business. Representative Jeannie McDaniel, D-Tulsa, filed a similar resolution of this nature during session but it was denied a hearing on the House floor.