Earlier this year, Congress was very upset with the auto company executives for flying their private planes to Washington, D.C., for a meeting. To show their displeasure with the "fat cats" in the auto and financial industries, limitations on salaries have been imposed, executives have been fired, personal cars or commercial airlines are to be used for trips, product offerings are dictated by Congress and all are responsible to Congress.
Now, I am reading that the congressional travel tab has increased 10-fold since 1995, tripled since 2001 and is up 50 percent over the last two years (The Wall Street Journal, July 2). The follow-up article in the Journal on July 3 reports this increase does not include the true cost of travel but strictly expenses for food, lodging, etc. The expenses do not include the full cost of using military aircraft or the salaries of those who organize the overseas trips.
For example, Sen. Arlen Specter, D- or R- (take your pick) Pa., flew to Europe and the Middle East for 11 days starting Christmas Day for meetings. The trip covered 11 countries with his wife, an aide and two military officials on a military jet. He recorded the trip cost, including the military jet cost, as $571 per person or about $2,500 total. The real cost was in excess of $70,000.
In view of this troubling trend, and in accordance with Congress' actions with big business, I recommend Congress receive taxpayer approval of any salary increases they request and that congressional members use their own cars or commercial airline coach seats whenever they travel at taxpayer's expense. Please remember that all of these people and their overall boss are up for re-election soon. If one of my employees had turned in an expense report for a trip to the Galapagos Islands with his wife and four other lawmakers and their families for four days "to study global warming" as Brian Baird, D-Wash., did, he would have paid for the trip himself or been fired.
Chuck Brannen, Durango