Monday, January 12, 2009

Crist goes to Washington: But who's paying?

Florida Gov. Charlie Crist is headed to Washington for Barack Obama's inauguration, but hasn't said how he's paying for the trip. Taxpayer's mammon, or his own?

With the state facing a $2.3 billion deficit, the answer should be obvious, but Crist's office has --rather inanely -- taken the No Comment route so far.

“That has not been determined,” said Crist spokeswoman Erin Isaac, asked if state taxpayers might be footing the bill, or a portion of it.

Well, here's what has been determined. Crist's enemies are already making an issue of it. Miami Rip Tide 2.0 questions the utility of a taxpayer-funded trip to the big party, and notes that likely 2010 Democratic candidate for Senator, Alex Sink, is paying with personal or party $.

But not all anti-tax advocates are as cynical.

Pete Sepp, vice president of the Alexandria, Va.,-based National Taxpayers Union, said he wouldn't question the propriety of a governor traveling to Washington to attend the noon-time swearing-in of a new president.

“Official government functions are one thing,” said Sepp.

But Sepp said it's another to have taxpayers foot the entire costs if the official decides to arrive a day early or stay late to attend parties, dance balls or even “coffee klatches” that may be sponsored by corporations and other special interests and include lobbyists or political contributors among attendees.

“That's the questionable part,” he said, suggesting these added costs would be better borne by a state or local Republican of Democratic committees, or the official's own campaign committee, if he or she has one.