Riley Feels Travel-Restriction Pinch

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New limits imposed by Congress have left Secretary of Education Richard W. Riley with little more than $1,000 to spend on official travel for the remainder of the fiscal year, which ends Sept. 30.

The restrictions have forced the secretary's office to cancel trips, plan ground travel to such nearby locations as Baltimore and Annapolis, Md., and scramble to fill Mr. Riley's schedule inexpensively.

"I don't know what we're going to do," said Rick Miller, a spokes-man for Mr. Riley, when asked how the secretary will spend his time. "We haven't figured it out yet."

The new travel restrictions were included in legislation passed in January that provided temporary operating funds for several government agencies, including the Department of Education, as negotiations over the 1996 federal budget dragged on. Lawyers for the White House Office of Management and Budget later ruled that the provision did not expire when Congress and President Clinton agreed in April on a permanent appropriations bill for fiscal 1996.

The provisions limit the fiscal 1996 travel expenditures of Cabinet members to 110 percent of their average expenditures over the past five fiscal years. That includes a couple of years when Mr. Riley and his Bush administration predecessor, Lamar Alexander, traveled relatively little--particularly fiscal 1993, which spanned the transition between administrations. (See chart, this page.)

The rule will limit Mr. Riley's travel spending to $21,897 for the current fiscal year, according to the Education Department.

He has already spent $18,230 on 32 trips, most of which included several stops, Mr. Miller said. Another $2,373 has been obligated, he said, leaving the department $1,294 to spend on the secretary's travel for the next four months.

Mr. Riley took 39 trips in fiscal 1994 and 34 in fiscal 1995, Mr. Miller said.

The restriction will not curtail Mr. Riley's political travels, as such trips must be paid for by the Democratic Party. The secretary is expected to stump for President Clinton as the November election nears. But the restraints will cut down on visits to schools, conference addresses, and other ceremonial appearances.

"He still will be out on the road and do certain events, but our ability to go to schools all across the country is hampered," Mr. Miller said. "We'd normally be doing consistent school visits."

Cabinet Trips Questioned

Secretary Riley has received invitations to 28 conferences, ceremonies, commencements, and other events through September. All of these events are "things we normally would have liked to have done," Mr. Miller said, but they are not even being considered because of the travel restriction.

Diane Magnuson, a secretary at North Kirkwood Middle School in Kirkwood, Mo., said Mr. Riley canceled a scheduled appearance this week at an event honoring the school's selection as a national "Blue Ribbon School."

But she said school officials weren't too disappointed. "We probably would've been surprised" to snag an appearance by the secretary, she said.

The secretary is restricted by law from receiving expense-paid trips from education organizations and entities.

The travel habits of top government officials became an issue last year when news reports called into question trips by some Cabinet secretaries, particularly Secretary of Energy Hazel R. O'Leary.

The Senate Subcommittee on Government Management, Information, and Technology requested travel documents from every agency. Last month, the panel reported that Secretary Riley spent 22 percent of his time on the road since taking office. Secretary of Veterans Affairs Jesse Brown spent the most time out of town--42 percent of his time. The most Washington-bound Cabinet member was Secretary of the Treasury Robert E. Rubin, who traveled only 16 percent of the time.

Some Democrats have complained that the subcommittee's investigation, and the 110 percent rule, were politically motivated actions designed to embarrass the Clinton administration or limit its visibility in an election year.

On the Road: Secretaries' Travel

Fiscal Year Dates of Travel Secretary Expenditure
1990 10/89-9/90 Lauro Cavazos $20,443
1991 10/90-12/90 Lauro Cavazos 7,743
1991 3/91-9/91 Lamar Alexander 9,540
1992 10/91-9/92 Lamar Alexander 33,370
1993 10/92-12/92 Lamar Alexander 2,724
1993 1/93-9/93 Richard W. Riley 7,717
1994 10/93-9/94 Richard W. Riley 21,000
1995 10/94-9/95 Richard W. Riley 16,900
1996 10/95-present Richard W. Riley 18,230 *

Yearly average______________________________$19,906

Fiscal '96 eligible travel budget_________________$21,897

*The figure for fiscal 1996 is excluded from the yearly average.

SOURCE: Department of Education.

Vol. 15, Issue 37

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