A U.S. House committee voted late last month passed an amendment that will cut travel spend by 30 percent in the wake of the General Services Administration scandal earlier this year. If you've been on the moon since April, read this. The amendment to the Government Spending and Accountability Act of 2012 now sits on the House floor for a general vote. But, like all legislativeeze, it's difficult to understand what the big differences are between this and the original act. So, I asked an expert for help, Erik Hansen, domestic policy director for the U.S. Travel Association.
Jessie: How will the passage of this bill change travel for U.S. government employees?
Erik: The amendment cuts federal travel in all departments except defense by 30 percent (on 2010 levels). It also caps all federal spending on conferences to US$500,000 per event. It requires federal agencies to post detailed information on all conference contracts, cost alternatives, travel and lodging and explain why certain choices were made.
Jessie: What parts of the amendment should the meeting industry be most concerned about, if any?
Erik: Understanding the need to limit government spending, we are concerned that the $500,000 cap will negatively affect the government's largest conferences, which may very well be the ones it most needs to have. We think the cap is judicious but arbitrary, and propose a waiver process for events that have proven value.
We also are concerned about the detail of information that the amendment requires government planners to share. We feel that sharing some information could put planners at a financial disadvantage when negotiating deals. We are suggesting that detailed information be shared only with the Inspector General, while aggregate numbers and general information can assure the public of smart spending.
Jessie: What's the next step in the process?
Erik: We do feel that this amendment takes great steps in ensuring fiscally responsible spending. We just want to make sure that the language is not only advantageous to the American people, but also to the travel, meeting and hospitality industries that serve that public. Bill sponsor, Rep. Joe Walsh (R-Ill.), has been open to working with us to find a solution. As for next steps, we will continue to work with the committee to ensure that the bill voted on by the House addresses the concerns of our industry.
For a copy of the legislation, click here. Visit our industry advocacy page (here) to find out how you can help.