The audit released by Republican State Auditor Tom Schweich shows the governor billed other state agencies $1.7 million for his travel and employees since he took office in Jan. 2009 and up to June 2011. The money is outside the $5.5 million the governor's office spent in fiscal 2011 for their operating cost.Schweich said the charges to other state departments showed the governor was trying to "circumvent the appropriations process."
Since taking office, Nixon has spent 334 days traveling on the taxpayer-funded state plane and 96 percent of those trips were billed to other state departments according to the audit. Nixon billed state agencies $546,000 for travel during his tenure. Overall, Nixon has spent $565,000 on travel up to June 2011.
Schweich said this was not a situation unique to this governor, but the spending had "escalated."
The audit also criticizes the governor for billing state agencies $770,000 for employees that were working for Nixon's office. For fiscal 2011, the Department of Revenue had the highest cost for the governor's employees spending $142,115. State agencies' bills increased from fiscal 2010 when they were $270,482 to $444,672 in fiscal 2011.
Nixon's office refused comment and deferred to their responses in the audit. In the report, Nixon's office said the practice of billing to other state agencies "accounts for its [the governor's office] operational costs in a manner that properly reflects the nature of the work performed."
The audit calls Nixon's responses "non-responsive."
This is not the first time officials have criticized Nixon's travel expenses. Republican lawmakers put restrictive language on the state's budget the last two years in an attempt to prevent Nixon from billing other state departments for travel and staffing.
Starting in fiscal 2012, which is outside the time frame of the audit, the General Assembly prevented the governor from billing his travel to all state departments except Pubic Safety for security reasons. Schweich said language would have to be "more restrictive" in the future.
"I am not going to pass judgment. It sounds like a lot, but I am not going to second guess the governor's job. If he thinks he needs to be on the plane 334 days that's his decisions. He just has to pay for it," Schweich said.
Nixon's opponent for the November general election, Republican Dave Spence, was quick to criticize Nixon on the audit.
"It's obviously shocking and disappointing that Jay Nixon instead of focusing on job creation has been focused on raiding the budgets of other state agencies," said Jared Craighead, Spence's campaign manager.
Nixon's office said he was not using taxpayer-funded state plane to travel to Charlotte for the Democratic National Convention Wednesday.