California Governor Bans Most Conference Travel in Cost-Cutting Move

HIL ANDERSON, SENIOR EDITOR
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Sacramento, CA – California Gov. Jerry Brown issued an executive order cutting off a potentially large amount of travel by state employees to conferences and other meetings. The April 26 order was aimed at chipping away at California’s $15.4 billion budget deficit. It prohibited “non-mission critical” trips and set a high bar for state officials and other employees to justify their travel plans. “Our fiscal challenges demand that we take a closer look at how taxpayer dollars are being spent within state government,” Brown said in his announcement. “Now is not the time to attend conferences, travel to meetings or take out-of-state field trips and this executive order puts an end to it.”

Brown’s office told Trade Show Executive it could not provide any estimates as to how many trips would be cancelled or how much money would be saved other than to say the state’s travel budget was in the millions of dollars.

Brown’s order was issued a little more than a year after President Obama said publicly that executives of financial companies receiving federal bailout money should not be traveling to Las Vegas or other destinations for business meetings. That statement was widely blamed for a sharp downturn in business travel nationwide that lingered for several months.

Industry Leaders Critical of Decision
Leaders of the exhibition industry called Brown’s move short-sighted and warned it could short-circuit California’s economic growth. “The governor’s edict discloses a fundamental failure to understand the role that meetings and events play in sparking economic growth,” said Steven Hacker, president of the International Association for Exhibitions and Events. “This is regressive and will ultimately be revealed as counter-productive to economic expansion.”

Gary Shapiro, president and CEO of the Consumer Electronics Association, said the restrictions would do little to help get California’s house in order. “Smart cutting must be strategic rather than isolating government employees,” he said. “Real cuts have to be in runaway pensions and agencies duplicative to federal efforts.”

Higher Hassle Factor for Travel
Brown’s order did not define “mission critical” trips, but said state employees would be required to submit detailed information in their travel requests on the reasons for their attendance, the projected costs and how it would benefit the state. In addition, travel would not be given the green light if the goals of attending the meeting could be accomplished through videoconferencing or over the telephone.

All out-of-state trips would have to be approved by the governor’s office. Travel requests for the coming fiscal year were to be filed directly to Brown’s office by May 6.

Roger Dow, president and CEO of the U.S. Travel Association, added that is was the California economy that could feel the fallout the most. “Data by Oxford Economics shows that government business travel has a more than 5:1 return on investment,” Dow told TSE. “It’s important to understand that while these cuts may save government dollars, an impact will also be felt in local communities that benefit from government business travel.”

Reach Gov. Jerry Brown’s office at (916) 445-2841; Steven Hacker at (972) 687-9204 or shacker@iaee.com; Gary Shapiro at (703) 907-7600 or gshapiro@CE.org; Roger Dow, president, US Travel Association, at (202) 408-8422 or rdow@ustravel.org