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JEFFERSON CITY, Mo.
Missouri lawmakers examining the state budget turned their attention Monday to spending by elected officials, focusing on issues such as travel by the governor that is billed to other departments and the amount of paper used by the House.
Rep. Tom Flanigan, R-Carthage, questioned why costs for the business travel of the governor would not be covered by the governor's office
Nixon Budget Director Linda Luebbering said individual agencies may be billed for cost when Nixon travels for business involving them directly. Luebbering said the governor's office most frequently charges the Department of Economic Development but also has billed the Department of Public Safety.
"When he has to do other special travel, we do need to allocate that," she said.
The Associated Press reported earlier this year that Nixon has flown tens of thousands of miles on state airplanes while charging state agencies for nearly all those costs. Through the end of May, the governor's flights cost more than $260,000 -- of that more than $80,000 was covered by the Department of Economic Development. Nixon was a passenger on more than 70 percent of all non-law enforcement flights from June 2009 through May 31 on the twin-engine, turbo-prop planes maintained by the Missouri State Highway Patrol and the Department of Conservation.
Lawmakers also focused questions Monday about the chef and housekeeper who work at the Governor's Mansion and the possibility of consolidating the three governor's office staff positions that are responsible for communications and dealing with the media.
Luebbering said all three communications posts within the governor's office already are more than full-time jobs.
A special House budget committee has been reviewing state budgets before lawmakers return for their annual session starting in January. Officials say they expected a budget hole of several hundred million dollars next year. The committee so far this year has examined state agencies such as the Elementary and Secondary Education and Natural Resources departments and the Missouri Medicaid program.
The budget committee spent several hours Monday reviewing the spending by the governor, lieutenant governor, secretary of state, state auditor, treasurer and attorney general. It also examined the budgets of the Senate and House.
House Clerk Adam Crumbliss said the chamber has reduced lawmaker's mileage reimbursement, shrunk the monthly allowance for members' office expenses and worked to reduce paper use. The House also has pared the cost of its orientation for incoming lawmakers by skipping a statewide tour of universities, prison and other state facilities.
Crumbliss told the budget committee incoming House leaders also have suggested trimming the money spent on House leadership staff by 10 percent to 15 percent.