Mississippi House Majority Leader Tyrone Ellis, D-Starkville, amidst a firestorm over the state paying his way to the Democratic National Convention, said late Monday he will pay for the trip himself.

According to records found online, Ellis apparently had been paid in advance $1,760 for the trip to next week’s Democratic National Convention in Denver. But after being criticized in a news release by the state Republican Party and by Republican members of the House in Internet blogs, Ellis said he will reimburse the state.

House Speaker Billy McCoy, D-Rienzi, said it was his intention that both Ellis and House Minority Leader Mark Baker, R-Brandon, attend their respective national conventions.

“I think it is very important for our legislative body to be represented at the national conventions and to meet with other state and national leaders and to promote Mississippi and to learn,” McCoy said. “It’s the best place in the world to do that.”

McCoy said he also understands why people could object to the taxpayers picking up the tab.

In a state Republican Party news release, Baker said, “Never in my wildest dreams would I consider asking for taxpayer money to pay for a political trip.”

When asked how the governor pays for trips to the national convention, Gov. Haley Barbour spokesman Pete Smith said, “It’s not taxpayer money… The state does not pay for it.”

Smith added Barbour also does not use the state plane for the trips.

Mick Bullock, a spokesman for Lt. Gov. Phil Bryant, said Bryan’s trip to the Republican Convention in Minnesota will be paid with campaign funds. He said Bryant would not consider using state funds for a trip to the convention.
NE MS Daily Journal
8/18/8