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From the staff of the Tampa Bay Times

Sink's $2,400 news conference

B4s_alexsink071408_30541d CFO Alex Sink put her fiscal watchdog image on display Monday in the state’s largest TV market.

“Floridians expect us to spend their money wisely and efficiently as possible, and I will continue to lead by example in these tough economic times,” she said in a news release for the visit to a call center in Largo that had been consolidated with others to save an estimated $2.2 million annually.

But delivering the message was not cheap. The taxpayer tab for flying Sink and three staffers on a state plane: $2,400.

The trip, billed by her office as a ribbon cutting, is no different than similar ones that Gov. Charlie Crist or other top elected officials make regularly.

But Sink, a Democrat, has been particularly vocal about saving taxpayer money and her party has been fueling questions about state travel and promotional expenses of Republicans.

Sink also is gearing up for a possible run for governor (for now, she is seeking a second term as chief
financial officer) and media events like the one in Largo can advance those goals.

She called the trip important outreach, and said she also was able to honor a commitment to appear at an area business luncheon. A staff member was able to visit an office that caters to the My Safe Florida Home grant program, Sink said.

“It’s really important for elected officials to meet face-to-face with citizens and the people we represent,” she told the Times/Herald on Wednesday. “And it’s important for us to be outside of Tallahassee, quite a lot.”

The use of state planes became a hot topic earlier this year after it was discovered that Lt. Gov. Jeff Kottkamp had racked up more than $400,000 in travel costs since being taking office with Crist in January 2007.

From January 2007 through December 2008, Sink’s office had spent $499,489 on air travel, according to the Department of Management Services. Of that, $108,127 was attributed to Sink herself — the lowest among the top state officials.

Travel figures for this year were not immediately available Wednesday.
In Largo Monday, Sink touted the consolidation of state call centers that respond to consumer questions on insurance.

In February, 11 Department of Financial Services offices statewide were rolled into one in Largo and one in Tallahassee.

Sink says that will save an estimated $2.2 million a year, while improving training. Call takers answer a variety of consumer questions on insurance.

WTSP-Ch. 10, now known as 10 Connects, showed up along with WMNF radio, though the TV station did not air a report. ABC Action News carried a brief item in its newscasts.

[Last modified: Thursday, September 9, 2010 5:59pm]


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