Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Palin's office defends per diem payments

Admittedly, I haven't been able to keep up with this Palin back-tax story. I've been swamped on all fronts so I'm posting some information I gathered this morning. It looks like she's fighting back.

At her official Office website, she posted two items:

Governor's travel expense report from 1999-2008

A comparison of expenses between herself and her predecessor, Murkowski

She also issued a defense of her per diem payments that was picked up by the AP:

Gov. Palin's office defends per diem payments
By ANNE SUTTON – 13 hours ago

JUNEAU, Alaska (AP) — Gov. Sarah Palin's office on Monday defended the governor's practice of collecting per diem from the state while living at her home in Wasilla, saying she was costing the state a lot less than her predecessor.

Spokesman Bill McAllister held a press conference comparing Palin's expenses with those of fellow Republican, former Gov. Frank Murkowski.

During her first two years in office, Palin charged the state almost $18,000 for meal allowances while living in Wasilla and commuting 40 miles to her office in Anchorage. But McAllister said Palin spent $100,000 less than Murkowski spent living in the governor's mansion in Juneau, the state capital, during his last two years in office.

"It's a different kind of expense. It hasn't been calculated this way before because previous governors have not spent that much time away from the mansion. But the fact of the matter is in terms of the amount of money, she is charging the state much less," McAllister said.

Sen. Kim Elton, D-Juneau, said the governor's staff was comparing "the $17,000 apple to the $100,000 orange."

"First I want to see how that $100,000 adds up and secondly, I guess I'm skeptical about whether she would be living in the mansion if she weren't able to collect per diem at home," Elton said.

"Yes, $17,000 is less than $100,000 but $17,000 is a lot higher than zero. And if she's going to work out of her home in Wasilla, the choice is between zero and $17,000 and not $17,000 and $100,000."

Palin's practice of charging the state per diem became known after she was named John McCain's running mate on the Republican presidential ticket late last August.

It became a campaign issue after she was presented to the nation as a fiscal conservative.

McAllister said Palin has been frugal in other ways as well. He said expense reports for per diem, lodging and travel for the governor and her husband, Todd Palin, in 2007 and 2008 show a savings of more than $900,000 compared to Murkowski's last two years in office.

Over two-thirds of that amount was attributable to Murkowski's use of the state jet. Palin had the jet sold when she took office and travels either on commercial flights or in the Department of Public Safety's 1980 twin-engine King Air.

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