House Speaker Steven Tilley answers questions from reporters

Leaders in the Missouri House, both Republican and Democrat, say they will build safeguards into the upcoming budget to protect departments from subsidizing Governor Nixon’s travel.

Often, when Governor Nixon travels, he does so on a state department’s dime. House Speaker Steven Tilley, a Republican from Perryville, said Nixon, a Democrat, should pay for his travel out of his own budget.

“This is not a Republican idea. It’s not a Democratic idea. It’s a bipartisan idea that we feel like will improve government, improve openness and transparency and that future governors, Republicans or Democrats, will have to live under,” Tilley told reporters in a news conference in his Capitol office.

Tilley denied he’s using the issue as an opportunity to slap the governor.

“I just think if you want to fly around the state just include it in your budget,” Tilley said. “Don’t piggyback off other people’s budget.”

The issue has been raised at the Capitol in the past. Nixon travels frequently as the state’s chief executive. If a trip for a news conference or an appearance can be tied to a state department, the department will pay the travel expense, not the governor’s office. A news release issued by Republican and Democratic leaders of the House said an agreement has been reached to specify in budget bills that department funds cannot be used to offset the travel expenses of the governor.

The news release points out that an audit of the Department of Mental Health issued last month by State Auditor Susan Montee, a Democrat, criticized the governor’s practice. Montee stated that it didn’t seem appropriate for the department to be charged $6,200 for flights taken by the governor and his staff from January 2009 through June 2010.

Nixon had little to say when asked about the issue by reporters during a news conference in his Capitol office to announce that Ford will keep its Claycomo assembly plant in Kansas City at full production.

“I think when we allocated some of the resources of the Department of Economic Development so that Mr. Kerr could go with me to Dearborn last year to begin this process it was a darn good investment of tax dollars,” Nixon stated.

Nixon referred to the trip that he and State Economic Development Director David Kerr made to Ford Motor Company’s headquarters to discuss the future of the Claycomo plant that employs about 4,000 workers.

AUDIO: Brent Martin reports [:60 MP3]