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       The following op-ed will appear in the Friday, April 1, 2011 edition of the St. Louis Business Journal.  This material is copyrighted by the St. Louis Business Journal and may not be reproduced,            distributed, transmitted, cached or otherwise used, except with the prior written permission of the St. Louis Business Journal.

       From Lt. Gov. Peter Kinder:  "For my enduring commitment to St. Louis, I make no apology ..."

       I recently learned of an article scheduled to be published this weekend in the Post-Dispatch regarding my travel as Lt. Governor. I write today so that constituents may be clear about where I stand on elected officials’ waste and abuse of taxpayer money. Over my 19 years in public office, I have worked tirelessly to fight excessive spending in government. This waste was pervasive when I came into office and, as we have seen in recent events, is still poisoning Missouri’s government. 
       Over the last six years, I have spent 280 nights at hotels in the St. Louis region for my official work as Lieutenant Governor. I was almost always charged the standard government rate, currently $105 per night, ranging from $98 to $111. I have been told that the Post-Dispatch is focusing on the name of hotels at which I have stayed, mainly the Chase Park Plaza and occasionally the Four Seasons,        and not the rate. What readers should know is that many St. Louis hotels, including the Sheraton, Westin and Hampton Inn, often charge a government rate higher than the Chase and other hotels                where I stayed.

       I have spent much time in Metropolitan St. Louis over the last decade and have come to know the community and its leadership. Regardless of political affiliations, local taxpayers have shown their sincere appreciation at having a state official at their banquets, meetings, groundbreakings, and ceremonies. The invoices my office sent to Post-Dispatch writer Jake Wagman, in response to his                    Sunshine Request, reflect my consistent presence in this region. 

       My travel has been twice audited in the past six years, both by a Democratic Auditor. The first was in 2007. The second audit was last year and it was published December of 2010. Both audits gave my office a clean bill of health and neither questioned my hotel expenses or billing.

       As Lt. Governor, I have continued to cut my budget and return unspent money to the state every year.  Further, I am the only statewide elected official who voluntarily offered a cut in my own office budget last year. I am a full-time Lt. Governor living off the statutory salary. Unlike most of my predecessors, I have renounced outside income for the duration of my tenure in office. I travel the state            almost exclusively by car. This includes my weekly drive home to Cape Girardeau, through St. Louis. 
       Four years ago, on February 17, 2007, in an editorial titled, “A Kinder Tax Break,” the St. Louis Post Dispatch stated the following about my service to St. Louis and Missouri:

       “Mr. Kinder, a Republican from Cape Girardeau, is a rare bird in state politics: a rural politician with a genuine interest in urban problems and a fondness for St. Louis in particular. He bridges the                rural-urban split that so often poisons state politics and stalls development.

       “On this issue, he also spans party lines. His idea has the support of Mayor Francis Slay and Mike Jones, executive assistant to St. Louis County Executive Charlie Dooley. All three are Democrats. If        more politicians were able to look beyond geographic and party boundaries to try to solve problems, Missouri would be a more prosperous place.”

       It seems times have changed for the Post-Dispatch.  However, I have not changed. I have opposed waste and excessive government spending since my first days as an elected official and will continue to do so. For my enduring commitment to St. Louis, now in its second decade, I make no apology.

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       E-mail to john {at} johncombest {dot} com