The Office of Management and Budget has made a directive for federal travel budgets to be cut 30%.
The General Services Administration was looking closely at federal government hotel rates and had been intending to cut payments for those. They use a formula that includes a mix of rates for different scales of lodging, and one possibility was cutting out the upper upscale segment. That would have lowered the rates they were willing to pay.
There was fierce lobbying in opposition to this by the hotel industry. In the end no cuts are being made. Which the GSA declares is their making a difference in “controlling costs and ensuring that taxpayer dollars are used wisely.”
And yet hotel industry supporters are still not thrilled. They want more spending.
Prior to the release of the 2013 per diem rates, some legislators had urged GSA to ensure reimbursement rates were not too low.
“Although I support efforts to save taxpayer dollars, I am concerned that the changes proposed by your agency have not been fully analyzed and could ultimately increase costs to the taxpayers,” Reid said in the letter.
So far, Reid has not received a response from GSA, according to a Democratic aide.
Government sources told Federal News Radio that Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and Del. Eleanor Holmes-Norton (D-D.C.) have also sent letters to GSA.
In some markets like Washington DC the federal government rate — what the federal government will pay for a room night in a given city (although federal workers can certainly pay more and come out of pocket for the difference) — is the primary driver of a hotel’s revenue. So unsurprising that the industry would care a great deal what a major customer is willing to pay.
I don’t have a strong belief on what the right amount is, that’s the sort of thing that ought to be subject to negotiations (something major companies with travel departments do all the time). And I don’t express an opinion here on what quality level of hotel a given federal employee ought to stay at, I suspect it varies based on the purpose of the trip and who is making that trip. I do know that the federal government rate at some of the better properties in DC is fantastic and I’m jealous that I’m not eligible…
It is a bit surreal though when the Senate Majority Leader — who would presumably be speaking on behalf of the government is saying that he’s concerned his side isn’t paying enough for what it’s getting. Note he’s not saying that workers need to travel more. He’s saying that for the travel they are doing, that they ought to be paying more. And that strikes me as somewhat strange.
(HT: Jim S.)