The head of the Texas House chamber’s Democratic Caucus is calling on former presidential contender Gov. Rick Perry to reimburse state taxpayers for millions of dollars spent while campaigning for a shot at the White House. In a hand delivered letter addressed to Perry today, Rep. Jessica Farrar (D-Houston) requests the governor return the $2.6 million incurred in travel expenses during the GOP primary race, as well as the more than $92,000 in retirement pension he received last year, despite not having retired, as Farrar notes.
The representative writes:
I believe that if the government must spend money, it should be for essential public services, like education, infrastructure, health services for the young and elderly, and disaster relief. I believe that unnecessary government spending is not just morally wrong, it is criminal. Tax dollars do not belong to the government or elected officials; tax dollars belong to taxpayers.
During his bid for the Republican nomination, Perry spent as much as $400,000 a month on security detail, reported the Texas Tribune in December. The largest security contingent among Republican candidates, Perry’s state-funded guards were also the only ones paid for with tax dollars. Before campaigning, Perry is quoted as saying that it is, “appropriate” for Texas taxpayers to pick up his security tab, even if the costs were to rise significantly while running for office. At the time, Farrar said the governor could have paid for the security out of his own campaign funds, “especially given that he’s asked the Texas taxpayers to tighten their belts.”
Additionally, while decrying state-collected retirement and Social Security on the campaign trail, Perry’s move to retire early is generating $6,588 monthly from the state’s Employee Retirement System, making his new yearly state income more than $240,000, the Tribune reported.
“I do advocate totally rethinking the safety net, personal security programs completely,” Perry said in 2010. “Why is the government collecting your tax money for retirement and health care programs? That’s not a stated constitutional role.”
On the road to the presidency, Perry called for slashes to congressional salaries, the elimination of three federal departments and consistently criticized ‘entitlement’ and social service programs. Newly exited from a failed presidential run, Perry now faces a Texas budget staggering in deficit. In his home state, millions in cuts to public education and basic women’s health care were applauded and advocated for by the governor.
Rather than a direct reimbursement from the state comptroller– as each taxpayer would only receive 10 cents apiece when the more than $2 million is allocated– Farrar suggests the money be invested back into education, health or disaster relief services, areas hit hardest by Perry and the Texas Legislature this session.
Similarly, Progress Texas recently launched a petition calling on Perry to pay back the $2.7 million dollars of taxpayer money he spent while campaigning:
Rick Perry wasted nearly 2.7 million taxpayer dollars on airfare, baggage fees, food and even parking during his failed 160 day Presidential campaign. Luckily, Rick Perry can pay taxpayers back today. According to Rick Perry’s latest ethics report, his state PAC has $2.47 million in the bank. He could repay 93% of what he owes us today by writing one simple check.
The full text of Farrar’s letter follows or you can read a copy of Farrar’s letter here.
January 23, 2012
Hon. James Richard “Rick” Perry
Office of the Governor
Capitol Building, Room 2S.1
Austin, Texas 78711
VIA HAND DELIVERY
Dear Governor Perry:
I want to be the first person to welcome you back to Texas. We have a lot of work to do for our great state, and I know you are ready to get started.
I have a few ideas as to where we should begin our work, but first I want to make a confession to you, and it’s a big one. Okay, here it goes: I… am a fiscal conservative. Yes, I admit it.
As a fiscal conservative, I believe government is supposed to be a wise steward of tax dollars. I believe that if the government must spend money, it should be for essential public services, like education, infrastructure, health services for the young and elderly, and disaster relief. I believe that unnecessary government spending is not just morally wrong, it is criminal. Tax dollars do not belong to the government or elected officials; tax dollars belong to taxpayers.
One way to protect taxpayers’ money is by not spending it unnecessarily. But, if someone discovers tax dollars have been spent unnecessarily, it should be reimbursed either to general revenue or directly to taxpayers. With this in mind, I suggest you reimburse Texas taxpayers for the money you spent on travel expenses leading up to your withdraw from the GOP primary race. As of mid-January, you spent approximately $2.6 million of taxpayer money.
Additionally, because I know you take pride in being a fellow fiscal conservative, please also return the $92,376 in “retirement” pension you received last year, despite the fact that you have not retired.
Please submit to the Texas Comptroller’s Office a check in the amount of $2,692,376, plus any other expenses related to your out-of-state campaign activity that you charged to Texas taxpayers.
Given that $2,692,376 million amounts to about ten cents for each Texan, direct reimbursement from the Comptroller to taxpayers does not seem like a wise expenditure of taxpayers’ money — stamps are expensive these days. Instead, we could put that money back into classrooms, health services, or disaster relief services. I am open to your suggestions.
As a fellow fiscal conservative, I look forward to working with you during your final term as Texas governor to identify ways to eliminate unnecessary government spending. We have a lot of work to do, so let’s get started before you leave.
State Representative, District 148