Monday, November 23, 2009

While State Workers Are Laid Off, Members of Gambling Commission Head to Vegas

I missed this tidbit in the Star a week or so ago:

As the state Department of Administration laid off 33 employees Friday, some wondered why other options weren't chosen Gov. Mitch Daniels has told state agencies they can ask workers to take a voluntary furlough. Phillip Giddens, who was laid off as director of its "Greening the Government" initiative, and others questioned why the state didn't opt for mandatory furloughs and spread the pain among all workers.

Mark W. Everson, department commissioner, said the two biggest costs are utilities and personnel, and utilities are fixed: "Given that, we felt we needed to do this."

Other state employees pointed to expenditures they think are inappropriate in this economy, including a Las Vegas trip for three members of the Indiana Gaming Commission.

Ernie Yelton, executive director of the commission, said he, his deputy director and general counsel will attend the Global Gaming Exposition next week. He called it the "ultimate trade show for gaming," an important chance to get acquainted with new gaming devices and issues.

Before, he said, he would have taken more staff and attended more events. "I have no hesitation in justifying this trip," Yelton said.

He did not have a total estimate for the four-night trip's cost, but said the flights cost about $220 and hotel rooms are less than $100 per night.

It was announced that next year will be the second year in a row that state employees will go without raises. They are also being laid off. I understood that for further belt tightening to meet the fiscal criss, Governor Daniels had frozen all but essential travel for state agencies. Yet members of the Gambling (I refusing to call it "Gaming") Commission have found a way to head off for a four day convention in Vegas on the taxpayer dime? I agree with the comments to the article that it doesn't pass the "smell test."

I certainly applaud Governor Daniels handling of Indiana's budget during this crisis. However, there are still fiscal leaks in his agencies which need to plugged. Yelton is wrong. There is no justifying this trip in the middle of Indiana's fiscal crisis.

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