Raise your hand if you can name Florida's lieutenant governor. Keep your hand up if you can pick Jeff Kottkamp out of a lineup. We thought so. The fact that so few even recognize his name or face are clues that it should not be necessary for taxpayers to pay for a state trooper to be Kottkamp's driver and escort as he moves around the state in a state-owned vehicle.
It's bad enough Kottkamp has charged taxpayers more than $400,000 for air travel the past two years. The lieutenant governor clearly prefers staying at his Fort Myers home rather than in Tallahassee, more than 300 miles to the north. Most of the air travel was between the state capital and his home, according to the South Florida Sun-Sentinel, and far too often the state plane was empty on one leg of the trip. Now that's service. Kottkamp reimbursed the state $6,600 for his wife and son after the newspaper's reporting. But perhaps before he agreed to be Gov. Charlie Crist's running mate voters should have been made more aware of this grand commute.
Now it turns out there is a considerable added cost for the trooper's travel. Let's get this straight: The trooper's permanent assignment is in Tallahassee, but his home is in Fort Myers. So when he is home, he can legally claim $80 a day in per diem. Along with some other payments for meals and such, that adds up to more than $60,000 over two years.
No wonder it's so hard to convince some taxpayers that government generally spends their money wisely.
While the practice did not start with Kottkamp, there is no reason the state's lieutenant governor needs a trooper to be on call around the clock and to serve as his driver. Unless there is a specific threat, he would seem to be at no more risk than a member of the Cabinet or any one of a number of legislative leaders.
The broader question, of course, is whether Florida needs a second-in-command with no designated duties beyond what the governor offers. Over the years, there have been particularly engaged lieutenant governors working on issues ranging from growth management to insurance. Others have done little to earn their keep. Given his routinely light public schedule and his aversion to Tallahassee, Kottkamp does not make a compelling case for keeping the office.
On the other hand, those late-night television ads suggest there are a growing number of high-paying jobs that can be done at home. There just aren't any that come with a driver and escort who is available around the clock and paid $80 a day in public money to stay in his own house.