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Florida Cabinet trip to the Keys doesn't come cheap

TALLAHASSEE — Accompanied by staff and security, Gov. Rick Scott and Cabinet members descended on the Florida Keys Monday night, 590 miles from their Tallahassee base.

The elected officials are in Marathon, one of the northern Keys, to discuss water quality and emergency management, among other things. It's the second time this year the Cabinet is vacating Tallahassee to interact with citizens around the state, said Lane Wright, a spokesman for the governor's office.

These Florida field trips aren't cheap, especially when home is the out-of-the-way Tallahassee, where flights are often expensive and inconvenient. That's especially true when it's destination middle-of-nowhere, population 8,000.

Scott shoulders some of the bill by buying his own food and flying two of his staff on his private jet. But for him and his aides to attend alongside Attorney General Pam Bondi, Chief Financial Officer Jeff Atwater and Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam and their staffs, the cost to taxpayers is at least $5,180.

"(The governor) feels it's important to bring state government to the people and give Floridians who might never make it to Tallahassee a chance to meet and discuss issues with their elected officials," Wright said.

Here's the cost breakdown.

For Scott to travel with four staff and a press aide, it's $1,411.

That includes hotels for $150 per night, food and three commercial flights for those who didn't take the governor's jet.

For Bondi and her crew, it's $1,284.

That includes flights to Miami with two staff members, car rental and gas, and a $125 per-night hotel.

For Putnam and his posse? It's $1,304.

Putnam and his Cabinet affairs director flew south for $314.

Putnam's press aide Sterling Ivey drove nine hours and spent $240 in gas from Tallahassee to fetch his boss at the airport and shuttle him to Marathon. The three are scheduled to stay in the Holiday Inn Express for two nights at $125 each.

And for the state's CFO?

Atwater drove from West Palm Beach, where Scott held a ceremonial signing for a bill to prevent fraud in personal injury protection insurance, known as PIP.

His gas is $160 (the state reimburses about 45 cents per mile). He also flew two employees to Miami for $521 and rented four hotel rooms for $500.

Atwater's total bill is $1,181.

The prices don't always include food, which state rules cap at $36 per day.

The meetings are open to the public.

Since Scott took office, Cabinet expeditions included the John F. Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral, the state fairgrounds in Tampa and an excursion to the Panhandle — which was to promote tourism after the BP oil spill, Wright said. This time, Scott will release a previously injured turtle into the wild to bring attention to the state's natural diversity, Wright said.

Brittany Alana Davis can be reached at bdavis@tampabay.com.

Florida Cabinet trip to the Keys doesn't come cheap 05/07/12 [Last modified: Monday, May 7, 2012 10:24pm]
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