Gov. Scott Walker’s political nonprofit group said Thursday it will reimburse the state for all of the governor’s political travel costs, including his security detail.
“Taxpayers are not paying any part of the governor’s Our American Revival travel,” spokeswoman AshLee Strong said in a statement to the State Journal. “Additionally, Our American Revival is paying for all hotels, flights, rental cars, and any other travel expenses for the troopers when they are on political trips.”
The state will still be responsible for salary and benefits for the governor’s Dignitary Protection Unit, plus travel expenses on official business, such as recent trips to the United Kingdom and Europe. The UK trip cost the state $138,000, including for the governor’s security.
Walker’s security detail provides protection including when the governor is traveling and attending political events. It also protects his family members. Typically, taxpayers cover all costs.
Walker has spent extensive time traveling this year as he lays the groundwork for a presidential bid in 2016.
OAR issued a statement on the travel costs the day after the state’s budget committee rejected on a partisan vote a Democratic proposal to require quarterly reporting of the governor’s travel-related costs to taxpayers.
Sen. Jon Erpenbach, D-Middleton, who introduced the proposal Wednesday, said he was glad to learn that taxpayers would not be on the hook for paying for trips to resort locations where Walker has been this year, such as Sea Island, Georgia, and Palm Beach, Florida.
“If they’re going to pay for it now, they should have been paying for it all along, and they need to pay for it,” Erpenbach said. “You are really pushing federal campaign finance laws, but certainly state campaign finance laws.”
A spokesman for the state Department of Administration said Department of Transportation officials are still calculating costs incurred by the governor’s security detail for the first quarter of the year.
When those costs are determined, the state will work with OAR on reimbursement, spokesman Cullen Werwie said.
DOT oversees the State Patrol. DOT Secretary Mark Gottlieb told the Joint Finance Committee in early March the state would pay for Walker’s security “no matter where he is,” as has been the practice with past governors.
The agency paid $1.75 million in salary and fringe benefits for the 10 members of Walker’s dignitary protection unit in fiscal year 2014, Gottlieb said.
He declined to disclose how many of the sergeants are accompanying Walker on his trips.
DOA reimburses the members of the unit for airfare, hotel, rental cars, food and other expenses, Gottlieb said.
He did not know how much was spent on recent trips when grilled by Erpenbach during the committee hearing.
“We had previous governors travel out of the state and out of the country,” Gottlieb told Erpenbach at the hearing.
“Not for political purposes like this,” Erpenbach said.
The State Journal reported last year that the security unit’s salary, benefits and travel expenses totaled $2.23 million in 2013, up from $657,457 in 2010 under Gov. Jim Doyle.