Syrin from Wasilla’s Blog
(2/27/09) In response to the recent settlement with the personnel board over state paid travel expenses for her family, Governor Palin’s office has begun asking those who extend an invitation for the governor to attend a function, “Is the first family invited?”
Is the First Family invited?: *
However, anyone extending an invitation to the governor might have cause to worry that if they check the box no, the governor might choose not to attend.
Part of the disagreement over whether a family travel expense qualifies for state reimbursement has been about the degree of benefit the state received from paying for airfare, in this case for the governor’s children to travel.
The question of whether the family is invited goes to the heart of the “state benefit” threshold. If the family is invited, then the argument could be made that it is a state benefit and the state should reimburse for the family members airfare.
I’m not quite sure where this “family travel protocol” theory came about, but it fails to pass the taxpayer straight face test.
Why should taxpayers ever have to pay for any governor’s child to travel to an event.
When this story first broke back in October, former Governor Tony Knowles stated that his children never took state paid trips, saying he couldn’t ever imagine when it would have been appropriate to do so at taxpayer expense.
In her press release announcing the settlement, Palin once again presents the issue as a simple Hobson’s choice. It’s a big state and she doesn’t think she should have to choose between visiting communities and spending time with her family.
“This is a big state, and I am obligated to – and intend to – keep Alaskans informed and meet with them as much as I can, from Barrow to Marshall to Ketchikan. At the same time, I am blessed to have a large and loving family, and the discharge of my duties should not prevent me from spending time with them. I will do so in accordance with the upcoming rewrite of regulations concerning travel expenses, and despite those who would crimp me from fulfilling either my obligations to the state or my obligations to my family,” Palin writes in her press release dated February 24,2009.
But once again, Palin frames it as an “I’m being picked on again” moment.
The fact is nobody is forcing her to choose between either fulfilling her obligations to the state or the spending time with her family.
If the governor wants to take her kids to Philadelphia for five days, fine.
However taxpayers shouldn’t have to pick up the cost of their round trip airfare and five nights at the Ritz Carlton.
Is that so unfair?
In an interview I did for blog a few months ago, I spoke with a former employee in the governor’s office. He told me that early on in Palin’s administration, her staff was telling her that she was on thin ice trying to claim reimbursement for her children’s travel expenses.
A memo was recently unearthed, (attached) by former Attorney General Greg Renkes which clearly states that travel on the state’s King Air for those traveling on non-official business should have to reimburse the state for the cost of a coach ticket.
It would seem that if the rules pertaining to who pays on the state plane have been hashed out, those same rules would apply to the state paying for commercial air travel.
The Renkes memo which was originally issued in September of 2004, was re-released in March of 2007, at the same time according to my source, the governor’s staff had raised the issue about the state paying for the children’s travel.
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