BATON ROUGE, La. (AP) — Expenses for the governor's state police security detail have increased during Gov. Bobby Jindal's tenure as he travels across the country raising his profile for a possible presidential campaign.
Col. Mike Edmonson, head of the Louisiana State Police, told lawmakers Tuesday during a budget hearing that his agency spent $2.2 million on travel expenses related to Jindal's protective detail this fiscal year.
The spending has grown from $1.6 million when Jindal first took office in 2008, and it's up from state police travel costs for Jindal's two most recent predecessors, Edmonson told the House Appropriations Committee.
Travel expenses for the governor's state police detail cost $609,000 when Mike Foster took office in 1996 and rose to $1 million when he left eight years later, according to Edmonson's data. State police paid $1.5 million in the last year of Kathleen Blanco's term, about 47 percent less than they spent this year on travel expenses for Jindal's security detail.
Several lawmakers, particularly Democrats, have questioned why the state is paying costs related to Jindal's extensive travel if the trips aren't tied to his work as governor. Criticism of Jindal's travel has grown as the state faces repeated budget gaps, including a shortfall of $1.6 billion next year.
"It seems like this is one of the areas in state government that has not been cut at all or restricted. Have we restricted the governor's travel at all?" asked Rep. Katrina Jackson, D-Monroe.
Edmonson replied: "No, we don't control that."
He said his office is required under state law to protect Jindal and his family wherever they go, no matter the purpose of the trip.
In 2014, the governor spent about 40 percent of his days outside of Louisiana, according to an Associated Press review of his announced trips. Since January, Jindal has traveled to eight states and Washington, D.C., including trips to the key presidential campaign states of Iowa and South Carolina. He also traveled to Europe for an economic development mission that doubled as a chance for Jindal to talk about U.S. foreign policy.
The Appropriations Committee is doing a department-by-department review of the governor's budget proposal for the fiscal year that begins July 1, which includes reductions across nearly every agency.
As they combed through the state police's budget of more than $400 million, committee members were divided on the increased presence of troopers in New Orleans to help local police. The New Orleans Convention and Visitors Bureau is paying $2.5 million to cover the costs through the end of the fiscal year in June, Edmonson said.
Committee Chairman Jim Fannin, R-Jonesboro, questioned whether that took needed troopers away from other parts of the state. But New Orleans Rep. Helena Moreno, a Democrat, praised the state police help for the city, saying it protects residents and a valuable tourism industry for Louisiana.
Online: The budget bill is filed as House Bill 1 and can be found at www.legis.la.gov
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Posted on Thu, April 2, 2015
by Melinda Deslatte, Associated Press