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Sen. Jeff Hayden feels free to move about the country on your dime

Based on his airfares, Hayden doesn't fly Southwest. He just lives its slogan: "You're now free to move about the country."

Based on his airfares, Hayden doesn't fly Southwest. He just lives its slogan: "You're now free to move about the country."

According to 2015 Minnesota state lawmaker expense reports, Sen. Jeff Hayden (DFL-Minneapolis) spent more on travel than any other member of the legislature.

Hayden supplemented his $31,000 part-time salary last year by more than $24,000, which included billing taxpayers almost $5,500 for travel. Contrast this sum with what other area Senate members spent. Fellow Democrats John Marty of Roseville and Minneapolis' Kari Dziedzic and Scott Dibble combined to bill the state less than $50. 

Hayden's 2015 itinerary included flights to Alabama, Seattle, and Washington, D.C., for conferences of the National Black Caucus of State Legislators and the National Conference of State Legislators. The roundtrips averaged almost $660.

Hayden's busy schedule prevented him from answering City Pages' questions.

He responded to interview requests with a statement that said in part: "... I have... been an honored participant in the work of the National Black Caucus of State Legislators and the National Conference of State Legislatures. My work with these two organizations has informed the work I do in Minnesota relating to economic and racial disparities, child protection, and healthcare."

Hayden's supplemental income also meant about $4,500 in interim per diem, an $86 daily rate submitted for doing state business on days outside the regular session. It included $344 while in New York City in September and another $344 in Arizona two months later.

Those payments add up fast. Minnesota House members got an average of about $8,500 in extra pay last year. The average collected by senators was almost $12,000. 

Hayden, along with Minority Leader David Hann (R-Eden Prairie), cost taxpayers the most in the Senate. Hayden received per diem totaling about $16,100, which was bested only by Hann's $16,426.

Hayden's spending other people's money has drawn scrutiny in the past. While serving as an alternative board member for Community Action of Minneapolis, a nonprofit serving low-income people, Hayden was among those called out for travel paid by the organization. A state Department of Human Services auditor later said the travel did “not appear to serve a business purpose, and are considered waste and abuse....”

Between 2011 and 2013, Community Action bankrolled Hayden and his wife Theresa about $3,400 to go on weekend trips to Arrowwood Resort in Alexandria. A court-appointed receiver called the Haydens' travel expenses “improper” and ordered they be repaid. The Haydens initially balked, but finally reached a settlement, in which the couple would pay back about $2,700.

  

Hayden's 2015 travels are a good investment for Minnesotans, says DFL spokeswoman Alyssa Siems Roberson. By attending out-of-state meetings, the legislator toils to shrink the economic chasm between demographic populations within Minnesota.    

"One of the ways legislators develop legislation to address issues like this is by seeking information about what has been successful elsewhere in the country," she says.