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OT pay for Perry's security surged

AUSTIN -- Overtime pay for the DPS officers who protect Gov. Rick Perry skyrocketed while he and his family were on the presidential campaign trail, new records indicate.

The overtime pay details, obtained by The Texas Tribune under the Texas Public Information Act, have increased the security costs well beyond the amounts released so far by the Texas Department of Public Safety. The agency has been releasing travel-related security costs as the bills come in and are filed for reimbursement, but those disclosures don't include the amount of overtime paid out, DPS spokesman Tom Vinger said.

In the six months in 2011 that Perry was an active presidential candidate, the DPS spent $1.1 million on overtime pay for the Executive Protection Bureau -- more than the total overtime pay for the security detail in all of 2010, records show.

Overtime spending for December, when Perry went on a meandering bus tour of Iowa, reached almost $300,000, the documents indicate. The department spent $75,000 a month on average in 2010 and $119,000 a month in 2011.

The average from August 2011 to January 2012, when Perry was still in the race for the Republican presidential nomination, was about $185,000. Perry dropped out of the presidential contest Jan. 19, two days before the South Carolina primary. The overtime bill for September was only $303.74, which the DPS could not immediately explain.

The final cost of providing security for Perry and his family during his presidential campaign won't be known until all the bills are tallied. The Legislature requires the agency to release quarterly totals reflecting the amounts submitted on travel vouchers.

As the figures are updated, the costs rise.

Late last year, for example, the agency had calculated nearly $400,000 for travel-related security costs in September. In a more recent update, the DPS disclosed that it had spent more than $500,000 that month for airplane tickets, lodging, fuel, meals and "other" expenses.

The overtime costs provide more fodder for Perry's critics. They say that in such tight budgetary times, Perry shouldn't ask Texas taxpayers to pick up the tab for a purely political endeavor. "What a waste of money," said Rep. Jessica Farrar of Houston, leader of the Texas House Democrats. "Why can't his private donors pay for it?"

Perry and his aides have dismissed calls to reimburse the state.

"Governor Perry is governor no matter where he goes, and DPS has a policy of providing security for governors and their families everywhere they travel -- as they have back several administrations -- just as many other states do, and as the federal government does for the president through the Secret Service," Perry spokeswoman Lucy Nashed said.

Perry is not the first Texas governor to run up big bills -- and receive criticism -- for security provided on out-of-state trips. When former Gov. George W. Bush ran for president in 2000, the state spent at least $400,000 a month in the first quarter of that year -- more than four times the amount spent in all of 1999, DPS records showed. Texas taxpayers paid $3.9 million for security for Bush and his family from January 1999 to March 2000, when the Secret Service took over the job, the DPS said.

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