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Indiana

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Budget belies Pence office moves

Other departments chip in as staff grows; costs of renovation offset

Pence

– Since taking office in January 2013, Gov. Mike Pence has added positions to his staff and is finishing a pricey renovation of some work space.

His office budget has stayed about the same, but that funding doesn’t count dozens of governor’s employees who are paid by other agencies.

A request to the state auditor for a list of governor’s office employees shows 17 full-time staffers with a collective annual salary of $1.3 million.

But spokeswoman Kara Brooks said there are actually 40 employees in the governor’s office, with more than half of them being paid out of another fund.

“It’s been done for years,” she said. “Every administration has done it. We are being transparent.”

Some examples include Ryan Streeter, a senior policy director recently given an expanded role as deputy chief of staff for policy and strategy.

His $120,000 salary is paid by the Indiana Economic Development Corp.

Also, deputy press secretary Bridget Cleveland receives her $48,000 salary from the Indiana Office of Technology; operations assistant Stephanie Hodgin is paid her $45,000 salary from the Indiana State Department of Health; and new deputy chief of staff for public safety John Hill is paid $135,000 from the Indiana Department of Homeland Security.

Brooks said the people who are not directly paid by the governor’s office budget have a tie to the other agency.

For instance, she said Cleveland has technology duties such as updating the governor’s website. And Hill – still serving as head of Homeland Security until a replacement is named – will continue to be paid by that agency because it is one he will oversee.

Just those four salaries amount to $350,000 in annual funding provided by other agencies. There are dozens more.

So on paper, it looks like Pence is holding the line with a $2.2 million budget, which includes salaries, operating expenses, funding for the governor’s residence, contingency, Governor’s Fellowship Program and a Washington, D.C., lobbyist.

Under Pence, the appropriation for the lobbyist line item and operating expenses has gone up, while the fellows program had its funding slashed by 36 percent, or $61,000.

The Governor’s Fellowship Program allows individuals an opportunity to work alongside public servants in a professional environment, develop the skills needed to be successful in a future career, and affect Indiana in a positive way.

In 2010, there were six fellows. That dropped to two in 2011 and four in 2012. Under Pence, there has been only one fellow a year.

Brooks said the funding was cut to reflect spending of about $100,000 a year in fiscal year 2012.

But not all that money is being used, as applications have dwindled. Pence’s office also has returned money to the general fund every year despite adding five staffers since he took office.

Office renovated

Meanwhile, the constituent services staff is being moved to another building, while the office space they used to work is renovated for the Governor’s Management and Performance Hub, which he established by executive order in March.

The cost of the work is $350,000, but the Office of Management and Budget declined to break down the expenses.

Brooks also would not show off the space until an upcoming open house. During construction, though, basement dwellers have seen a new handicapped-accessible entrance and fancy clouded-glass walls.

By comparison, the current budget has a $750,000 appropriation for renovations of the 100-member Indiana House. And Glenda Ritz, the superintendent of public instruction and a Democrat, has taken heat for spending $86,000 to put up additional walls for her staffers.

Pence’s project expanded a suite of offices that originally held eight governor’s office staffers to now accommodate 16 employees, including several from the Office of Management and Budget who were working in leased space outside the government center.

“The hub is all about making government more efficient, effective and transparent,” said Office of Management and Budget Director Chris Atkins.

“Managing our data as carefully as we do our dollars and using the data to tackle big issues and problems like infant mortality.”

He said everything done in the space was to enhance collaboration and innovation between budget gurus, policy experts and data analysts.

And Atkins said there was no additional cost to taxpayers because the cost of the work was offset by savings from moving staffers out of leased space and by part of an Eli Lilly grant.

nkelly@jg.net

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