Vice President Mike Pence's frequent visits to his hometown are putting a strain on local resources.
Fire and police departments in Columbus, Indiana, have bottomed out on budgeted overtime funds because of visits by the vice president. Last week, the city council gave preliminary approval to increase the overtime budgets for both departments by a combined $70,000.
The ordinance cites a “number of unanticipated overtime events related to vice-presidential visits to our city” but does not offer specifics on the exact events.
Jamie Brinegar, director of Finance, Operations & Risk for the city of Columbus, said he believes the scale of the ordinance to be overblown.
“The ordinance, as written, is misleading in that it only identifies overtime costs related to the vice president’s visits as the need,” Brinegar told Independent Journal Review.
Instead, Brinegar asserted that the vice president's impact on the ordinance was “tertiary,” citing several unexpected factors, such as abrupt retirement, as strains on police and fire department resources.
Still, the ordinance asks for about an 18 percent increase in the initially approved overtime budget for the year.
Brinegar explained that there's been little opposition to the ordinance, and regardless of partisanship, vice presidents often lean on their hometown for additional assistance from local public safety units.
A bulk of the need comes from the Columbus Police Department answering requests from the Secret Service, but the local precinct views the constraints as anything but a burden.
“The Columbus Police Department considers it a privilege to have the opportunity to provide security assistance to the United States Secret Service and Vice President Pence,” Lt. D. Matthew Harris, Columbus Police public relations officer told IJR.
Harris noted that all members of the department would keep a close eye on the budget and remain “fiscally responsible.”
Controversy involving the cost of Pence's various trips first came to light in October, when Pence left a football game between the Indianapolis Colts and the San Francisco 49ers after some players knelt during the national anthem.
Critics felt that the vice president was spending taxpayer money to make a political statement, essentially mimicking the behavior both he and President Donald Trump have been vocally opposed to.
At the time, Hawaii Democratic Sen. Brian Schatz tweeted “Wait. This was orchestrated to make a point? That's not an inexpensive thing to do.”
Columbus Mayor James Lienhoop told USA Today that the budgetary difficulties were “a good problem to have” adding that the discrepancy seemed manageable.
And for Harris, being tasked to manage a budgetary issue around the vice president inspired a little hometown pride.
“Being the hometown of the vice president of the United States of America is just one part of what makes our city special,” Harris said.
The final vote for the ordinance is scheduled for Tuesday, December 5.