Putting the Squeeze on State Travel Expenses

Good things are happening behind the scenes in state government. Operational review teams, chaired by members of the General Assembly and staffed by area experts in the Kaine administration, are focusing on ways to cut operational expenses of state government. These teams report to an Operational Review Oversight Committee comprised of Del. Christopher B. Saxman, R-Staunton, Sen. Emmett W. Hanger, Jr., R-Augusta, and Secretary of Finance Jody M. Wagner.

One of the committee’s latest initiatives is scrutinizing state travel expenses (including those of state colleges and universities), which amounted to nearly $1 billion over the past four and a half years. After extensive consultation to review the practices of industry leaders, the travel team issued the following recommendations:

  • Automate the travel reimbursement process
  • Expand the use of computer-based training modules for state employees
  • Increase the use of teleconferencing for training
  • Establish stricter limits on conference travel
  • Implement a statewide travel contract to leverage state buying power

Read the full report here.

What’s encouraging about this approach is that it isn’t arbitrary and capricious — no 10-percent-across-the-board cuts, regardless of the consequences. The participants are looking for ways to do the business of government more efficiently. It’s also nice to know that there is a limit to partisan politics. When it comes to efficiency in government at least, some Democrats and Republicans are willing to put the public interest first.

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5 responses to “Putting the Squeeze on State Travel Expenses”

  1. Groveton Avatar

    It’s good to see the state of Virginia rushing headlong into the 1980s.

    Every one of the ideas for cutting travel expense has been long established in private enterprise. The only exception might be next generation video conferencing. Products from companies like Cisco (Telepresence), HP (Halo), Polycom and Teleris are making good on the long awaited promise of immersive video conferencing. However, these products are effective and pretty expensive as well. They require notable capital outlays in order to get installed and working. Most companies find the business case quite compelling but there is definitely a cash outlay up front. Maybe tap the Rainy Day Fund? Just a sip of the money in that fund. Not a full drink, just a sip.

    However, as the state of Virginia reaches equality with 14 year olds on collaboration within government – there is a more fundamental question. If the state can effectively cut travel with better collaboration (some of which is organizational, some of which is technical, etc) – why must they stay anchored to Richmond? People on this column have long yearned for economic development in parts of Virginia outside of the already developed areas in NoVA, Richmond and Tidewater. In fact, there was a column about Big Stone Gap just a few days ago. The state should implement its next generation collaboration environment and move let’s say 10,000 – 20,000 jobs out of Richmond and into SW Virginia. This move would set the foundation for corporate economic development in SW Virginia.

  2. Larry Gross Avatar
    Larry Gross

    re: “It’s good to see the state of Virginia rushing headlong into the 1980s.”

    Good SHOT Groveton!

    Now this is more like the bold thinking that we’ve been promised -right?

    and I think you are right on.

    It is NOT about the money but what you do (or not) with the money.

  3. Jim Bacon Avatar

    Gentlemen, Rushing headlong into the ’80s is better than staying stuck in the ’70s. Let us praise progress, however modest it is.

  4. Jim Bacon Avatar

    Let us also praise productive, bipartisan cooperation whenever we find it.

  5. Groveton Avatar


    OK. Fair is fair. Progress is progress and cooperation is cooperation.

    I guess the key question is how to get from the 1980s to 2007.

    However, I wonder about the approach being used by the state..

    Your article, “Good, We’ve Got the Metrics, Now Give Us Numbers” pointed out the very 1980s style of committee based management being employed by the state. I think the state would be a whole lot better advised to have a single person study the matter and develop recommendations and then “sell” those recommendations to the interested parties – one at a time. I also think that the state could enter the late 1990s by investing in an information warehouse – a database with an easy to access copy of all the data held in the many different systems throughout the state. Many companies have taken this step and it has generally paid big dividens to those companies. And … in the case of Virginia the state could reach 2007 by allowing read-only access to that database to everybody and letting people like the ones on this blog download the data, study the data and make policy suggestions. The state would be under no obligation to accept the free analysis but they woul dbe getting the free analysis. Guys like Ed Risse and Jim Bacon would probably bring some very new thinking to a quantatative analysis of settlement patterns for example. Of course, poeple like me (and maybe Toomany taxes) would use the data to bash the NoVA state representatives for their callous disregard of their constituents.

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