The cost of Gov. Bobby Jindal’s security detail has doubled to more than $3 million since the Republican governor entered office nearly eight years ago, but the Louisiana State Police say the hefty price increase isn’t largely driven by Jindal’s frequent travel.
Protective services for the governor cost just under $1.5 million in the 2007-08 budget year when Jindal first took office. The price tag rose to $3.1 million in the 2014-15 year that ended June 30, according to data provided to The Associated Press.
State lawmakers have complained about taxpayers footing the bill for Jindal’s trooper bodyguards as the governor increased his out-of-state trips, seeking to raise his national profile and readying for a GOP presidential campaign he announced June 24.
Col. Mike Edmonson, the superintendent of State Police, acknowledged that Jindal’s frequent travel boosted some costs for the State Police bodyguards who have hotel, flight and car rental expenses they wouldn’t have otherwise.
“The bottom line is when he goes, we go. That’s what we’re mandated to do,” said Edmonson, a Jindal appointee. “He’s still governor. It doesn’t matter if he’s in-state or out of state.”
However, Edmonson said the growing price tag for the Jindal family security detail shouldn’t be blamed on travel.
He noted state troopers received a sizable pay raise, averaging 20 percent, over the last year that he said accounted for much of an $830,000 growth in salary and benefit costs for the protective services detail over the last year alone.
“I’m seeing more of an increase because the troopers’ rate of pay has gone up,” he said.
Lawmakers raised the salaries again this year, though that second pay hike wasn’t reflected in the security cost data because it didn’t take effect until July 1.
Benefit expenses for troopers also have increased in recent years, and the costs of protecting Jindal’s three children, as they’ve grown older and their after-school activities increased, also have swelled, said Maj. Doug Cain, a State Police spokesman.
The price tag of travel-related spending — on taxis, flights, hotels and car rentals — have fluctuated yearly, costing taxpayers a total of about $643,000 over all eight years Jindal’s been in office.
According to the State Police data, those expenses reached a high of more than $98,000 in the 2011-12 budget year, when Jindal was traveling for Republican candidates and being talked about as a possible vice presidential contender.
Those costs are edging up again. Travel-specific spending for the governor’s State Police bodyguards neared $98,000 in the last budget year. Edmonson expects them to be larger this year, because of Jindal’s White House bid.
The governor’s been away from Louisiana two-thirds of the days since kicking off his campaign, mainly in the early voting state of Iowa, according to an AP tally based on campaign event announcements.
Jindal hasn’t refunded the state for any trooper expenses related to campaign trips.
Lawmakers sought to ban the State Police from paying for the governor’s security detail to travel for campaign events in this year’s budget. Jindal vetoed the attempt.