Kinder urges moratorium on out-of-state travel by senators

Friday, January 24, 2003

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. -- A state Senate leader is proposing a one-year moratorium on paying for out-of-state travel for senators, a move that could save the state about $80,000.

Senate President Pro Tem Peter Kinder said the moratorium is part of the Senate's effort to reduce its expenses as state government grapples with a general budget shortfall.

Kinder offered the proposal Thursday during a meeting of the Senate Administration Committee, which is responsible for approving out-of-state travel to meetings and events held by groups such as the National Conference of State Legislatures.

In the past, out-of-state travel was routinely approved by the committee and was paid for out of a Senate contingency fund.

"We are facing the worst budget crisis in 70 years," Kinder, R-Cape Girardeau, told the committee. "I think we all have to feel some of the pain in our budget and our lifestyle."

Kinder's proposal would not affect in-state travel. It also would not affect senators who pay their own way or who travel out of state at somebody else's expense. Senators who have trips paid for privately would still have their out-of-pocket expenses paid for by the Senate.

"We have to make it clear that tight times are here," Kinder said.

Sen. Ken Jacob opposed Kinder's suggestion, saying Missouri lawmakers receive valuable experience by attending out-of-state conferences with lawmakers from across the country.

"Missouri doesn't exist in a vacuum. There's an exchange of ideas," said Jacob, D-Columbia. "That would be totally unfair and a break from history."

The committee agreed to delay a decision on the issue until its next meeting, which could come as early as next week.

Because of that, Sen. Joan Bray, D-St. Louis, was allowed to leave Thursday at the Senate's expense for a National Conference of State Legislatures meeting in Arizona. Bray serves on the group's executive committee.

The House addressed the issue last year when it required that members pay for out-of-state travel from their state-funded office accounts rather than from a House contingency fund, said House Speaker Catherine Hanaway, R-Warson Woods.

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