FRANKFORT, Ky. -- State Sen. Tom Buford was one of at least seven legislators who got word recently of the state's $456 million revenue shortfall while attending a convention of lawmakers in Duck Key, Fla., at taxpayers' expense, reports the Louisville Courier-Journal in its Sunday edition, as an example of travel costs in a time of a straining budget.
The convention, which dealt with insurance issues, was the 30th in less than three years for Buford, a Nicholasville Republican who is chairman of the Senate Banking and Insurance Committee. State records show that the first 29 trips have cost taxpayers $43,416 in salary and expenses, more than any other legislator.
Second on the list was Senate President David Williams, who received $39,923 in salary and expenses for 21 trips and who must approve travel expenses for all senators, reports the C-J.
Between Jan. 1, 2006, and Oct. 30, 2008, Kentucky taxpayers paid legislators a total of nearly $1.3 million in salary and expenses for 756 trips to out-of-state meetings and three major legislative gatherings in Kentucky, according to records obtained from the Legislative Research Commission through an open records request.
Jim Waters of the Bluegrass Institute, a free-market think tank that favors smaller government, said so many trips are wasteful, the newspaper reports.
"One or two trips a year (per legislator) would be fine," Waters said. "But if legislators who travel so much are finding solutions to the tough issues on these trips, we haven't seen results of it yet."
Of Buford's 30 trips, 27 were out of state to legislative meetings in such places as San Francisco, Las Vegas, New Orleans, Phoenix, New York, Boston, Chicago and California's Napa Valley, reports the newspaper.
In an interview, he defended the value of legislators attending such conferences, but acknowledged he might have overdone it.
"These things are kind of like prunes. One may not be enough, and 30 are probably too many," he said. "But it's important that when these meetings take place around the nation that we have a representative there. Policies and model legislation are developed," he told the Louisville Courier-Journal.
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