State agencies spent $85.7 million on travel in fiscal year 2017, which ended in June, according to a review by state Comptroller General Richard Eckstrom’s office.
State colleges and universities spent approximately $58 million–that’s two-thirds of all travel spending, which Eckstrom thinks can contribute to making college tuition unaffordable for some families.
Overall spending increased $4.6 million since the previous year. That figure represents a 5.7 percent increase, compared to general fund revenues, which increased by 4.3 percent, according to the office.
A 2017 travel report by the agency gives an overview of travel expenditures, including in-state and out-of-state expenditures, and ranks agencies according to spending.
In a statement, Eckstrom said:
“We produce this report each year in the interest of increasing financial transparency for state government. The purpose is not to assess the merits of an agency’s travel spending, but to simply let citizens see how public funds are being spent and then ask questions if they have any.
To that end, state agencies and state-supported colleges and universities should be prepared to answer questions and provide more details if requested. In fact, I’d encourage all agencies – particularly colleges and universities – to make their own detailed spending reports available on their websites. Of the nearly $86 million total the state spent on travel last year, colleges and universities spent nearly $58 million of that total (that’s two-thirds). Major spending like that can contribute to driving the cost of tuition beyond reach for many students and their families.
I want to emphasize that this report includes only state agencies and colleges and universities. It does not include local governments. However, I strongly encourage cities, counties, and local school districts to compile their own travel spending reports and make them publicly available online.
There’s great public interest in travel spending at all levels of governments, and taxpayers should be given full access to whatever information they need to evaluate whether or not their tax dollars are being wisely spent
Producing this report is one way to shine light on this major category of government spending. Government leaders and managers should constantly evaluate all spending on travel to ensure that it’s necessary, reasonable, and serves a legitimate public purpose. Government serves the best interests of taxpayers by limiting travel to only the essentials. In doing so, agencies need to consider the actual benefits they receive when spending on travel, and then weigh those benefits against those financial costs.”