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by Mike Hall, May 20, 2010


Years ago, when I moved into a three-bedroom trailer in Ohio, it felt like moving on up to me. But then again, I wasn’t coming from a nearly $10,000-a-month, five-bedroom, seven-bath mansion with pecan-wood floors, a gourmet kitchen, three dining rooms and a swimming pool for which  taxpayers were footing the bill. 

Maybe that’s why Texas Gov. Rick Perry (R) ungraciously turned down the Texas AFL-CIO’s offer to solve his temporary housing problem–the governor’s mansion is undergoing renovation, hence the rental–and save the taxpayers nearly $120,000 a year.  Every penny counts when the state is $11 billion in the hole and is slashing billions from schools, universities, public safety and other vital programs. 

Yesterday, the Texas AFL-CIO offered Perry the use of a brand spanking new, 1,100 square foot, three-bedroom, two-bath mobile home with brand new appliances for just $1 a year. On top of that, it is located at the state federation’s downtown Austin offices, within walking distance to the Capitol, cutting down Perry’s big carbon boot print from the black limo entourage that chauffeurs him to work each day from his gated community in the West Austin hills.

At the press conference with the shiny new green and white governor’s-mansion-in-waiting behind her, Texas AFL-CIO President Becky Moeller said that in light of the state’s $11 billion budget shortfall and coming budget cuts that threaten the jobs of thousands of state workers: 

The Texas AFL-CIO stands ready to offer Gov. Perry an opportunity to trade down. We are offering this modest but perfectly comfortable substitute for the extravagant $10,000-a-month, taxpayer-funded rental mansion beset by coyotes. 

In keeping with the reality faced by Texans in tough economic times, Gov. Perry might find that using taxpayer dollars to live like an ordinary Texan, rather than like a king, sends a better message. 

On top of the $1 a year rent, Moeller offered to foot the bill for furnishings, utility hook-ups and “other details to make certain the building is comfortable for temporary living.”  

That might be tough because Perry’s idea of comfortable living probably goes beyond a nice recliner and cable TV, according to a recent story by the Associated Press that documents the extravagant life behind the locked gates of his toney Barton Creek Estates.    

At Perry’s temporary home (listed for sale at $1.85 million in 2007) taxpayers have spent nearly $600,000 for rent, utilities, repairs, furnishings and supplies since Perry moved in, including:

  • $18,000 for “consumables” such as household supplies and cleaning products.
  • $44,000 for ground and lawn maintenance.
  • $8,400 for pool maintenance.

Other items that taxpayers footed the bill for include a $1,000 “emergency repair” of the governor’s filtered ice machine and $70 for a two-year subscription to Food & Wine Magazine.

While Moeller didn’t say if the mobile mansion’s fridge had an icemaker, it was stocked with copies of Food and Wine and complimentary hair products, a nice touch for a politician noted for his well-coifed mane.

To be fair, and we are all about fairness, Perry has cut back on expenses to do his part to help the struggling state budget. The AP reports that Perry’s spokeswomen Allison Castle says Perry now has just one housekeeper and  one full-time chef. But there is also a part-time chef and a steward. Not exactly heartbreaking sacrifices or “doing without,” said Moeller.    

When the state has announced $1.2 billion in immediate budget cuts that effect public schools, universities and other core programs, we deplore the symbolism of a governor’s saying he is “cutting back” on luxury by suffering with one-and-a-half cooks. A governor who wouldn’t take $555 million in federal funds to help Texas workers who have lost their jobs through no fault of their own hasn’t hesitated to live in a gated millionaire’s community on the taxpayer dime.

What you see before you may not be fit for would-be royalty, but it is a decent compromise in tough times.

Mobile homes are good enough for the Texas families that live in 323,000 mobile homes in about 2,400 communities, according the Texas Manufactured Housing Association–plus tens of thousands more on private land. Maybe Perry would reconsider if it came with a gate, one of those nice inflatable pools and an outdoor grill to serve as a back-up kitchen for his one and half chefs.

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