February 23, 2015

What the State Spends on Travel, Memberships and ‘Swag’

Print More

CAPITOL WATCH

State Capitol Photo 1

M. Scott Carter

M. Scott Carter

M. Scott Carter reports on politics, legislation and other issues from the State Capitol.

 

 

 

Facing a budget hole of more than $611 million, state lawmakers said they’re looking everywhere for revenue to fill that hole.

On Friday, Fallin’s finance secretary, Preston Doerflinger, said he may have found a source of savings: agency travel costs, agencies’ memberships to other organizations and agency promotional and events expenses, or what his office calls “swag.”

Data from the Office of Management and Enterprise Services shows that state agencies spent $109.5 million on in-state and out-of-state travel during the 2014 fiscal year. The state spent another $11.6 million on membership fees to other organizations and $28.2 million for advertising, other promotions and events.

“The figure was so big it almost made my head explode,” Doerflinger said.

More than $71 million of the travel costs, or nearly two-thirds, was spent by colleges and universities, data indicate. Higher education also accounted for 83 percent of promotional costs and 65 percent of memberships expenses.

The question lawmakers will face is whether cuts to travel, promotional expenses and memberships would yield much in savings.

Colleges and universities are large employers and pay for travel for athletic teams and faculty, among others. Many agencies, such as the Department of Public Safety, must incur certain travel costs.

State Rep. Mike Shelton, D-Oklahoma City, said cutting travel probably wouldn’t save much money.

“There may be some money there,” Shelton said. “But I doubt the legislature will cut its own travel budget. I’m not sure how much it would save.”

In February, Gov. Mary Fallin suggested using $297 million in state agency revolving funds to help cover the budget gap.