Editorial: Put a stop to state’s high travel expense

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, May 14, 2002

A state House committee moved this week to put a moratorium on taxpayer funded out-of-state travel for state employees until at least July 1, 2003. It is a good idea and one that should become law before the end of the session.

Newspaper investigators learned that the state’s out-of-state travel bill has increased 48 percent during the past five years to nearly $13 million in 2001. While some state leaders defend that travel spending as necessary for state government, it is hard to see much direct connection between good government and travel abroad. That is particularly true in an age when conference calls and Internet-based meetings can replace many events that once had to occur face-to-face.

Further, in limiting travel the state would only be doing what most businesses did long ago. Faced with economic challenges last summer and fall, and particularly in the wake of Sept. 11’s events, many businesses reined in travel expenses and most continue to impose more limitations than they had during the economic boom of the late 1990s. There is no reason the state should not make a similar decision in dealing with its own budget crisis.

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Some will liken a travel moratorium to locking the barndoor after the horse has escaped. Realistically, it is more like closing the floodgates before the reservoir runs dry.