For decades congress and the president have abused the privilege of traveling on the taxpayer’s dollar. The Washington Examiner recently put the need for travel reform into sharp focus when they discussed the travel habits of West Virginia Senator Jay Rockefeller.
Washington DC is less than four hundred miles from West Virginia’s capitol city, a long trip by car, but a short hop by plane. Nevertheless, the Examiner claims West Virginia’s senior senator irregularly travels home, but regularly bills taxpayers for his extra-ordinary travel expenses. Said differently, Rockefeller is a poor man’s Louis XIV.
Americans of all political persuasions should be unhappy. While politicians tell their constituents that America’s debt will soon demand higher taxes or fewer services, these same individuals bill the government for high-end travel. Reform must carry the day; exorbitant reimbursements for domestic travel must be reduced (international travel can also be a problem).
Ordinary state and federal workers are modestly reimbursed for miles driven (e.g. .56 per mile). Since the cost of air travel frequently depends on a person’s destination, members of congress should be reimbursed for the average cost of a round trip, one-connection ticket to a reasonable airport in that individual’s home state. If a Representative or Senator desires an expensive ticket or a charter plane, he or she would be required to personally cover the difference.
Presently the tail wags the dog – government elites get a costly free ride while taxpayers pay the bill. Unnecessarily expensive travel must end, and only voters can make this happen. Change will begin with persistent questions. How much did you charge the government for your travel last year? Will you post all relevant billing information on your website? Will you sign a low-cost travel pledge? If voters remain determined, elected elites with imperial travel habits will soon begin to lose elections.