Colo. lawmakers consider travel spending limits
DENVER — Several Colorado lawmakers are scratching their heads after state-chartered agencies complained they can’t live on proposed new restrictions on travel that are twice the limits allowed by the IRS.
The new guidelines would allow someone traveling on state business to spend $680 a night for food and lodging in New York, $554 in Boston and $300 in Colorado Springs, according to figures provided by the federal government.
Rep. Sal Pace, D-Pueblo, said the bill (House Bill 1211) is aimed at the workers’ compensation insurer Pinnacol Assurance, which spent thousands of dollars on a golf outing for executives that sparked an outcry last year, but he wanted it to apply to all state chartered agencies.
“If it is good public policy for any state agency, it should be good for all state agencies,” he said.
Pace said universities, hospitals and special districts complained that the legislation is too broad and would hamper their ability to do their duties, including college officials wanting to go to bowl games and hospital executives who travel to recruit good doctors.
“This bill is designed to give state employees living the lifestyles of the rich and famous a little heartburn,” said Rep. Jim Kerr, R-Littleton.
Under the bill, any state employee who spends more than the allowable amount would have to refund the difference.
J. Evan Goulding, spokesman for the Special District Association of Colorado representing hundreds of special districts, said his members attend educational conferences that can get pretty expensive.
He said the bill would give gadflies an opportunity to go after board members and who could demand an endless list of investigations.
“This just puts tomahawks in the hands of people who want to challenge us,” Goulding said.
On Wednesday, Pinnacol’s board voted to strip CEO Kenneth Ross of his $163,000 bonus for 2010 after executives and board members took an agent incentive trip to Pebble Beach resort in California. The trip cost more than $300,000 and included rooms at $1,400 a night for Ross and three board members.
“That money comes from ratepayers or business owners,” said Pace, who offered to limit the bill only to Pinnacol.
The House State, Veterans and Military Affairs Committee delayed action on the bill, saying there are still too many questions about the legislation.