in Houston, Texas
Texas State Sen. Judith Zaffirini tops in travel spending; Kirk Watson lowest
Thursday, Nov 05, 2009, 04:07PM CST
By Lee Ann O'Neal
Sen. Judith Zaffirini spent more than $77,000 about $58,800 on her daily stipend and travel costs over a year and a half, more than any other senator during that time period.

State travel records showed the bulk of Zaffirini's spending was for her $139 per diem, a flat-rate daily stipend for days senators work at the Capitol or travel on state legislative business, and for mileage reimbursement within her district and for trips between her district and the Capitol.

"I drive back and forth because there are no flights from Laredo to Austin," the Laredo Democrat said. "Every single trip to Austin is 482 miles roundtrip. My vehicle is an office."

Zaffirini

In a story earlier today, Texas Watchdog highlighted travel spending by state senators including a trip to Maui, overnight stays at a Ritz-Carlton in Manhattan, and the use of private and charter planes. The story was based on Senate travel records from Jan. 1, 2008, to May 1, 2009.

Zaffirini said she was surprised that she came out with the top bill, and that most of her travel is within the district. Zaffirini said she hadn't been to a legislative conference since 1991.

"I'm just a no-nonsense type senator," she said. "I focus on the work. I don’t focus on the fun things."

On the low end, Sen. Kirk Watson spent the least on stipends and travel. The Austin Democrat spent more than $21,000.

To check out how your state senator spent travel money, visit Texas Watchdog's searchable database of travel records and daily stipends.

Texas Watchdog did not include senators who were not in office the entire time period under review in figuring the rankings of who spent the most and least.
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