Haley Barbour’s Travel Travails: Much Ado About Nothing?

Matt K. Lewis Senior Contributor
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Governor Haley Barbour came under fire again this week — this time for too much taxpayer-funded travel.

Underlying the criticism was the notion that Barbour’s travel might really be about winning the GOP nomination for president, and that he should be spending more time focused on the home front.  This is a common lament other governors exploring a possible presidential run have weathered, most recently Tim Pawlenty.

But while such media reports may make convenient talking points for the DNC, Barbour’s travel hours (like all politicians, he finds legal ways to balance official business and politics) actually accounted for less in 2010 than in than three of his first four years in office — a point which seems to undermine that argument.

What is more, there’s also an argument that when a governor travels, it can be good for the state.

For example, one of Barbour’s trips was to San Jose, California for meetings with Twin Creeks Technology, a solar technology company Barbour is bringing to Mississippi. The new manufacturing plant on which the company will break ground next month is said to create 512 jobs and represents more than $175 million in investment.

Barbour’s team insists that his policies — and, yes, his travels — have lured some of the nation’s most sought-after economic development projects, including manufacturing plants by Toyota, PACCAR, GE Aviation, Shulz and Severstal. (These investment coups alone secured Mississippi 3,800 jobs, plus an ensuing 2,000 when Toyota begins producing Corollas in Fall 2011.)