Gov. Rick Perry is taking an eight-day trip starting Tuesday to Italy, where he’ll attend a Formula 1 Italian Grand Prix and meet with business leaders, including the chairmen of Ferrari and M&G Polymers. He’ll also participate in the 38th Annual Ambrosetti Intelligence on the World, Europe and Italy Forum: Innovation, Research and Development as Drivers for Growth, global economic forum.
According to the governor’s office, Perry's travel expenses will be paid for by the Ambrosetti Forumand by TexasOne, a program that Perry launched in 2003 to help fund economic development marketing.
“No tax dollars will be used for the Perry’s travel and accommodations on this trip,” the governor’s office said in a statement announcing the trip.
That is not strictly true, though. Several Texas cities, including Pflugerville and Cedar Park, are members of TexasOne, and have paid thousands of dollars collected as specially authorized sales tax revenue to join.
Perry has faced criticism in the past for his travel expenses. Perry’s Democratic opponent in the 2010 race for governorn, Bill White, called TexasOne a “slush fund.” In 2006, TexasOne paid for tickets for Perry and his family to watch the University of Texas football team play at the Rose Bowl in Pasadena, Calif.
Mark Miner, a former Perry spokesman, has said in the past that the governor often travels in an effort to bring new business to Texas. “No matter where he goes, a major goal of his is to attract businesses to either relocate to this state or create new jobs in Texas,” Miner said last year.
Next week, Perry will travel to the shores of Lake Como in the northern Italian city of Cernobbio, where he will meet with the local governor, Robero Formigoni. Italian businessmen and movie stars like George Clooney have homes in the area. Perry will also head to Milan, where he will watch the 2012 Formula 1 Italian Grand Prix and visit a September 11th memorial. In November, Austin will hold a Formula 1 Grand Prix of its own. Perry has said he supports the race.