BATON ROUGE — Lt. Gov. Jay Dardenne, a Republican running for governor, wants taxpayers to stop footing the bill for Gov. Bobby Jindal’s presidential campaign travel.
Dardenne, who has ramped up his criticism of Jindal in recent months, released a letter Thursday calling on the GOP governor to use campaign cash to reimburse Louisiana State Police for travel costs tied to the governor’s security detail when he’s campaigning out of state.
“Louisiana taxpayers should not pay for any part of the costs of your travel while you campaign for president,” Dardenne wrote.
The lieutenant governor, who is notified whenever Jindal leaves the state, said Jindal has been away from Louisiana 75 days so far this year. The out-of-state travel has grown since the governor announced his White House bid last month, and state trooper travel expenses have been going up for Jindal’s protective detail, even amid ongoing state budget shortfalls.
The state police spent $2.2 million in hotel, meal and other expenses for the governor’s state trooper security detail through nine months of the last fiscal year, for both in-state and out-of-state trips, lawmakers were told in a budget hearing. Travel costs were higher than for Jindal’s two predecessors.
Dardenne said he has been unable to get updated figures from state police.
Despite the rising costs and more frequent travel, it doesn’t appear the governor will start refunding the state.
In June, Jindal vetoed state lawmakers’ attempts to curb taxpayer spending on his campaign travel. On Thursday, Jindal spokesman Mike Reed offered no indication that Jindal intended to reimburse any of the money.
“Candidates for governor should not make the safety of the governor and his family a political issue,” Reed said in a statement. “We appreciate the work that State Police does for the governor and his family every day, and we’re grateful for their service. We leave all security determinations up to the State Police and we trust them to do their job.”
Dardenne pointed to one of Jindal’s Republican competitors in the presidential race, Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker, whose political committee announced in April that it would pick up the tab for Walker’s security detail when it travels with him to purely political events.
Dardenne urged Jindal “to follow Gov. Walker’s lead” and reimburse taxpayers “for the hundreds of thousands of dollars your campaign for president is costing our state.”
Lawmakers sought to ban the state police from paying for the governor’s security detail to travel with Jindal for campaign purposes in the state budget for the fiscal year that began July 1, but Jindal stripped the language with his line-item veto.
In his veto message, Jindal said “the implementation of this amendment would limit the budgetary discretion of the State Police.”
Reproach of Jindal is becoming increasingly common among candidates for governor, an acknowledgement of the governor’s dismal approval ratings in his home state. Jindal is term-limited, and his replacement will be chosen this fall.
The election is Oct. 24, with a runoff set for Nov. 21.