- Associated Press - Monday, October 24, 2016

JACKSON, Miss. (AP) - Mississippi legislators are combing through state agencies’ travel reports to try to cut costs on events such as out-of-state conferences.

Members of House and Senate budget groups met Monday with several officials, including Medicaid director David Dzielak and Corrections Commissioner Marshall Fisher.

Many agencies require multiple levels of supervisors to approve travel expenses. Dzielak said he signs off on employees’ out-of-state conferences.

Fisher said trips to conferences have been reduced since he became head of the state prison system in January 2015.

The Department of Corrections spent $495,604 on travel during the year that ended June 30, 2016. That was down from $752,110 the previous year, when Fisher inherited a budget midway through the fiscal year. Records show the biggest reduction was for out-of-state trips.

“The travel expenses aren’t a huge piece of our budget,” Fisher said. “We’re taking any steps we can to cut where we can.”

The Division of Medicaid spent $512,913 on travel during the year that ended June 30, 2012, and is budgeted $716,083 during the current year, records show. The agency has 1,034 employees, and Lt. Gov. Tate Reeves said more than 80 of them traveled out of state for work last year.

Legislators asked Dzielak for information about how many requests for travel were denied. He said he would provide that.

Andrea Mayfield, executive director of the Mississippi Community College Board, said travel expenses account for 1.25 percent of the budgets for the 15 community and junior colleges and less than 1 percent of the budget for the board staff. She said she has frozen out-of-state travel to save money.

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Follow Emily Wagster Pettus on Twitter: http://twitter.com/EWagsterPettus .

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