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The Nevada Independent

Lt. Gov. Anthony uses office budget for record travel as he makes position ‘full time’

A Nevada Independent analysis found that the lieutenant governor’s travel budget was significantly higher in Anthony’s first year than in any past years.
Sean Golonka
Sean Golonka
State Government

One of the few enumerated responsibilities for Nevada’s lieutenant governor is to promote travel, serving as chair of the Nevada Commission on Tourism.

In his first year in office, Lt. Gov. Stavros Anthony went to new lengths to achieve that goal. 

From domestic trips to Washington, D.C., and Iowa, to international travels to Germany and Mexico, to frequent reimbursements for personal vehicle use, Anthony’s expenses in his first year as lieutenant governor contributed to his office recording its largest travel budget in its history.

The reason? Anthony said in an interview he treats the position as a “full-time job” and doesn’t consider it to be part time, even though the elected position comes with only about half as much pay and fewer responsibilities than any other statewide elected office.

“I'm taking this part-time job, and I'm turning it into a full-time job,” he said, separately adding, “I knew I was going to need the resources to do that, and I've been using it.”

His treatment of the position as full time means he’s “putting all [his] efforts into what a lieutenant governor is responsible for, and that's tourism, outdoor recreation, traveling the state because [he’s] on the Board of Transportation, making sure that we have great roads, economic development.”

The lieutenant governor’s office uses only a tiny fraction of a fraction of the state’s general fund, with a roughly $1 million operating budget that pales in comparison to the entire state government’s $30 billion-plus in annual spending. The next-smallest budget for any statewide elected official’s office is nearly $10 million annually for the controller, who serves in a full-time position as the state’s chief fiscal officer.

That difference in scale casts a wide shadow over what is a tiny office helmed by an often overlooked statewide official. But since riding to a 37,000-vote victory over Democratic incumbent Lisa Cano Burkhead in the 2022 election, Anthony has ratcheted up his travel spending beyond any of his predecessors.

According to a Nevada Independent analysis of state expenses and budget data, Anthony’s office recorded more than $34,000 in travel expenses in his first six months in office, an amount greater than in 13 of the past 15 full fiscal years for the office.

The increase was driven in large part by travel during the legislative session — at the start of last year, lawmakers approved a hefty budget adjustment to account for the change from an official who lived in Reno near the capital to one living in Las Vegas. That change would have likely come regardless of the outcome of the general election. Like Anthony, Cano Burkhead lived in Southern Nevada, but she was only appointed to the position after the 2021 legislative session.

A similar travel budget trim happened after the election in 2018 of Kate Marshall, a Northern Nevada Democrat who took over as lieutenant governor after the departure of Mark Hutchison, a Republican who lived in Southern Nevada.

But the increased size of Anthony’s office’s travel budget also reflects his heightened focus on tourism and travel.

Across the 2023 and 2024 fiscal years, a budget period that stretches from July 2022 (six months before Anthony took office) through June 2024, the lieutenant governor’s office has recorded in-state travel budgets totaling about $52,000 and $46,000, roughly in line with the larger travel budgets approved during the last legislative session

Still, each of those alone is higher than the office’s total travel expenses for any single year across the previous 15 fiscal years analyzed. Add in an out-of-state travel budget that was nearly $7,000 in the last fiscal year and more than $13,000 in the current one (a jump from the legislatively approved budget of about $5,000 annually), and it comes out to a two-year travel budget 87 percent higher than any other similar two-year budget period. 

While inflation has driven up some costs for travel, such as higher gas prices, that budget increase far outpaces inflation between June 2015, the end of the fiscal year that the office’s travel expenses last peaked prior to Anthony’s term, and June 2023. In that time, airfare costs nationally have declined, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, while fuel prices have grown by less than 30 percent.

Flights, driving across state drive up travel expenses

Behind the increase to Anthony’s travel budget was his travel to and from Northern Nevada during the 2023 legislative session, a 120-day period during which Anthony serves as president of the Senate, a generally ceremonial role that involves presiding over daily proceedings, such as reading through agenda items.

With the schedule of the session, Anthony said he tried to get back to Las Vegas most weekends to be with family and take care of personal business. Like many legislators who live in Southern Nevada, that often meant a flight from Reno to Las Vegas on Friday along with a return flight Sunday.

A review of Anthony’s official calendar obtained via a public record request found he had roughly 40 flights listed between late January and the start of November. That total does not account for about 20 other potential flights, such as some weeks when he was in Las Vegas on the weekend and Carson City on Monday but no flight was listed in his calendar. The total also does not include some trips that do not list a flight on his calendar, including back-to-back trips to Germany and Mexico in September.

The number of flights and Anthony’s travel throughout the state drove up his travel expenses relative to other statewide elected officials. Among the travel expenses reported by his office, Anthony was listed as the “vendor” — a reference to him being reimbursed for the expenses — for more than $18,000 in travel costs during the 2023 fiscal year. That was well ahead of Treasurer Zach Conine (almost $11,000) and Secretary of State Cisco Aguilar ($6,100), the next-closest elected officials by reimbursed travel amount.

Anthony’s international trips were largely funded by outside groups and not his own office travel budget. On his annual financial disclosure, Anthony reported five trips in 2023 paid for by outside groups, together totaling $15,000 in value provided to him:

  • Germany ($5,000) from Sept. 16-22, paid for by the National Lieutenant Governors Association (NLGA)
  • Greece ($5,000) from July 13-August 3, paid for by the Hellenic Council
  • Mexico ($3,000) from Sept. 25-28, paid for by Travel Nevada
  • Iowa ($1,000) from Aug. 14-18, paid for by the NLGA
  • Chicago ($1,000) from Sept. 7-8, paid for by the Republican Lieutenant Governors Association

An analysis found that Anthony’s reported value from travel paid for by third parties was the third highest in 2023 among nearly 70 lawmakers and statewide elected officials.

Anthony said these were work-focused trips. He said of his trip to Mexico, which focused on promoting Nevada tourism, that “at one point within a four-hour period, I think I conducted 15 interviews with television, radio, podcasts, newspapers, and I actually lost my voice for the rest of the day.”

“I make sure that I let the rest of Nevada and the rest of the country and the world know about these great tourist destinations all over the state,” he said.

His trip to Greece involved attending an environmental conference and a meeting in the Greek Parliament, he said, and he added that the NLGA trips provide him with an opportunity to speak with other lieutenant governors “about what's going on in their state when it comes to tourism, transportation and economic development.”

The Mexico trip, however, was still funded by the state, though just a different organization. The Nevada Commission on Tourism (NCOT) has reported paying about $5,200 to Anthony so far in the 2024 fiscal year, an amount that includes funding for his attendance on a Cowboy Corridor road trip.

Another factor driving Anthony’s increased expenses was personal vehicle use. In his first six months in office, Anthony reported more than $3,300 for personal vehicle expenses. The only person in that office to report a higher aggregate total over the past 15 years analyzed was former Lt. Gov. Brian Krolicki, who recorded $8,000 in such expenses over seven fiscal years and two terms in office. Krolicki’s highest single-year total in this category was about $1,500.

Anthony justified the increased expense by emphasizing his focus on making the role full time and his efforts to support rural Nevada tourism.

“[It’s] the only way I can talk to people all over the state of Nevada. I mean, I could do it on the telephone, but that's a disservice,” he said, also noting the geography of the state and the long hours to drive between various destinations. “It takes a lot of time and takes a lot of resources to make sure I meet with people all over the state.”

To Anthony, his increased efforts are paying off.

“When I travel to a lot of these rural areas to talk about tourism, I mean, the first thing I hear is ‘Well, we've never had a lieutenant governor come out and visit us before,’” he said. “When the lieutenant governor of the state goes out there and talks about rural Nevada, I think people are paying attention to it.”

A greater emphasis on travel

Comments from his staff found in email records obtained by The Nevada Independent also reflect a casual attitude toward Anthony’s travel schedule.

In one June 2023 email exchange, a staff member wrote, “I don’t have the specifics on the Germany trip yet. He may be leaving a day earlier (Sept 15) to accommodate his meetings schedule in Germany. He also has Goldfield Days and Reno Air Races on hold for that week.  We just need to clone him!!”

In another case, a top staffer’s email reflected a more blasé attitude about travel.

“Hey Michael – The only ‘travel policy’ we have for our offices is that if the travel is for our work and it’s to be covered by our travel budget – we just need to request approval from our Budget folks and Becky leads that for the LG,” Anthony’s Chief of Staff Rudy Pamintuan wrote in a March 2023 email to one of Anthony’s senior advisers, Michael Dayton.

That’s a shift from some past lieutenant governors. Former Lt. Gov. Kate Marshall, a Democrat who served in the role from 2019 and 2021 and most recently worked in the Biden Administration, told The Nevada Independent that her office “kept it on the straight and narrow” when it came to travel expenses and looked for ways to trim costs.

She said that in legislative budget hearings, her office was always required to justify any kind of travel and needed to explain the reason for any trips planned in the year. Marshall also emphasized that on any trips to the rurals, it was important for the office to show the “public benefit” of such a trip or appearance, rather than any personal benefit from doing so.

“I treated the position as a full-time position, and I did not need that kind of travel budget,” Marshall said of the now-increased budget, adding “the goal is to keep the cost down for the taxpayer.”

Instead, Anthony’s focus on travel and tourism appears more in line with other predecessors. Hutchison, the last Republican lieutenant governor — and the last whose tenure was not disrupted by the COVID-19 pandemic — oversaw Nevada’s efforts to establish a new tourism office in India. Prior to that, NCOT had opened and closed a tourism office it worked with in Beijing. Despite the loss of that office, Hutchison at one point made a 10-day trip to China through Travel Nevada.

At their peak level prior to Anthony, the lieutenant governor’s travel expenses exceeded $42,000 in the 2015 fiscal year, a period that covered Krolicki’s last six months in office and Hutchison’s first six. 

Anthony’s office is currently working on putting together a trip to Taiwan, a sister-state to Nevada. He said the trip “won’t cost the taxpayers anything,” though a budget document from September 2023 included in his office’s emails indicates his office was planning a four-day “tourism outreach” trip to Taiwan that was at the time expected to cost more than $2,800 out of his office’s out-of-state travel budget. 

Underpinning Anthony’s various international excursions is an advisory opinion he sought from the Nevada Ethics Commission early last year. At the time, he was planning a trip to Israel in the fall through the State Government Leadership Foundation (SGLF), a group that develops conservative-minded policy and focuses on helping elect Republican officials in state government. That trip, with an estimated value of $12,500, was eventually canceled amid the ongoing Israel-Hamas conflict. In response to Anthony’s request for an advisory opinion on his travel, the commission found it would be ethically acceptable to take the trip. 

The opinion was narrow in scope, finding that “the acceptance of the sponsorship to attend the trade mission hosted by SGLF under these particular circumstances, within the limitations expressed in this opinion, does not create an appearance of impropriety and would not violate” state law.

But Anthony indicated it gave him license for his other travels.

“I went through the process with the Ethics Commission. They gave me a ruling that basically said international travel is just fine for the lieutenant governor, and they laid it all out why it was fine,” he said. “And it basically said that a lieutenant governor can and should and definitely can go on international trips. So based on that I've been able to go on these trips.”

As Anthony heads into the remainder of his term through the end of 2026 — a period that will include one more legislative session, and with it a legislative review of his office’s travel budget — his focus on travel shows no signs of slowing down.

“I'll just keep doing what I have been doing because I think it's been very successful, and I get a lot of good comments from all over the state saying, ‘Thanks for coming out to our community and listening to what we have to say,” Anthony said.


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