57ºF

Lt. Gov. Carlos Lopez-Canter's travel expenses questioned

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – How would you like to have an $8,000 stipend to pay for travel from your home to your office? Lt. Gov. Carlos Lopez-Cantera's office is in the state Capitol, but the lieutenant governor has managed to arrange work-related state-paid trips to and from his Miami home almost every weekend. When he hasn't traveled, it's because he never made it to the capitol that particular week.

Since being sworn in in January, Lopez-Cantera has made 24 trips to or from his home in Miami at taxpayers' expense.

Most trips to Miami have been made on Thursdays or Fridays, and return trips to the Capitol, often a week or two later, are on Mondays or Tuesdays. Common Cause calls the trips questionable.

"You know, what we've got here is either an egregious abuse of state travel policy or a remarkable coincidence," said Common Cause board chair Peter Butzin.

Lopez-Cantera is a millionaire six times over, and while jobs events are cited as a reason for some of his trips, Lopez-Cantera has stopped showing up for them.

Gov. Rick Scott touted job creation in Hollywood, Florida, on July 7. But Lopez-Carlos was nowhere to be found that day.

News4Jax also reported in June that the lieutenant governor works just about one-third of the time, logging 368 hours since January, while people working 40-hour weeks put in 968 hours on the job.

Lopez-Cantera is expected to announce that's he's running for the U.S. Senate, so the big question is: Will he resign his lieutenant governor's gig?

"That's a decision he'll make," Scott said.

But Democrats have another take on it.

"Is that the message he wants to take to the U.S. Senate? That he's going to live large on the taxpayers' dime and not show up for work?" Democratic Party representative Max Steel said.

Lopez -Cantera is expected to announce his Senate plans on Wednesday.