Mississippi agencies under fire for spending


SPENDING: State agencies in Mississippi spent $1.3 million on “food for business expenses” and more than $39 million on travel in fiscal 2014.

By Steve Wilson | Mississippi Watchdog

When the state spends $1.3 million for “food for business meetings” in fiscal 2014, someone should ask about it.

Lt. Gov. Tate Reeves plans to.

Reeves told Mississippi Watchdog he intends to take a long look at agency spending, including food expenses, as he has done before.

During his term in office, Reeves has helped cut the number of state-owned vehicles and curb the purchase of more.

“We have state agencies that are spending too much money on all kinds of things,” Reeves said. “They’re spending too much money on food, they’re spending too much money on travel and they’re spending too much money on personnel. We’ve reduced the number of state employees by 1,000 over the past few years, but we’ve got more work to do. We’re going to squeeze that.”

Speaking of travel expenses, state agencies spent more than $39 million on travel in fiscal 2014. That’s still less than the more than $41 million state agencies spent in fiscal 2013.

The Department of Revenue spent $526,819 on out-of-state travel. That’s more than the agency charged with promoting tourism and industrial development — the Mississippi Development Authority — spent on out-of-state travel in fiscal 2014, which was $289,448.97.

The state Cosmetology Board spent $136,794.10 on travel in 2014, which was more than Gov. Phil Bryant’s office spent — $16,506.58 — in 2014.

The state also spent $517,610 in fiscal 2014 at casinos and resorts, mostly in the Magnolia State. Some of that went to food for business meetings, as well as some lodging fees. The office of the Attorney General spent $45,766 at Harrah’s Casino and $50,519 at the Imperial Palace.

Jan Schaeffer, communications director for the state Attorney General’s office, confirmed in an email to Mississippi Watchdog the expenses were incurred during annual training for prosecutors.

“Pursuant to state law, our Prosecutor Training Division develops and coordinates continuing legal education classes and conferences for full-time and part-time prosecutors across the State of Mississippi,” Schaeffer said. “We conduct two major conferences and several customized training classes each year.”

Reeves said that many expenditures are justified, but that he wants to ensure Mississippi agencies are held accountable for every dollar they spend.

“We’ve got to make sure every penny is justified,” Reeves said. “We think there are ways to find savings.”

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