Nati Harnik / AP
Texas Gov. Rick Perry speaks with workers at a meat plant Thursday in South Sioux City, Neb.
Texas taxpayers spent $3.6 million paying for Gov. Rick Perry's state-provided security as he flew around the country during his brief Republican presidential campaign, the state said Friday — money that Democrats want him to pay back.
The Texas Department of Public Safety disclosed that it spent $1.8 million on food, fuel, hotels and other expenses and another $1.8 million on overtime guarding Perry during his travels from August through January.
Most of that travel was out of state as Perry sought the Republican nomination and carried out his duties as head of the Republican Governors Association.
Texas Democrats have called on Perry to pay back the money from his campaign war chest. But Perry has refused, citing the example of Gov. George W. Bush, whose 2000 campaign also used state-provided security.
Catherine Frazier, a spokeswoman for Perry, said Friday in a statement: "Governor Perry is governor of Texas no matter where he travels, and it is unfortunate we live in a world where security is a top concern, but that is the reality. Providing security detail for the governor's family is a customary policy that dates back numerous administrations."
It's likely that some taxpayers won't be satisfied with that answer, because Bush's campaign cost the state on average half of what Perry's cost, even when the figures are adjusted for inflation.
Perry's bill works out to an average of $22,500 a day for his out-of-state political activities during the 160 days he was in the presidential race.
Before the Secret Service took over Bush's security at the end of March 2000, the Texas Department of Public Safety spent $3.9 on Bush's out-of-state security, state records show.
When you run that through the Commerce Department's cost of living inflation adjustment formula, Bush's bill was about $5.25 million in today's money. But that was spread over 455 days from Jan. 1, 1999, to March 31, 2000 — an average of only $11,428 a day.
The Houston Chronicle reported that while Perry's campaign generally paid for his personal travel expenses, his security detail is paid through the state gasoline tax and vehicle registration fees.
"One way to protect taxpayers' money is by not spending it unnecessarily," Texas House Democratic leader Jessica Farrar said in a letter to Perry in January, when the bill was still only $2.6 million, NBC station KXAN of Austin reported at the time. "If someone discovers tax dollars have been spent unnecessarily, it should be reimbursed either to general revenue or directly to taxpayers."
More content from msnbc.com and NBC News:
- Sanford mayor: Police resisted release of 911 tapes
- Lights on or off? Earth Hour faces new challenger
- Mom, 29, dies in agony in jail after being booted by ER
- 2 studies tie pesticide to bee population crashes
- Spike Lee apologizes, will pay Sanford couple over tweet
- Vt. teacher's killing may have been 'sexually motivated'