Gov. Maggie Hassan's office said canceling a planned trade mission to Turkey would cost taxpayers $10,000 and the private businesses that will accompany the governor would lose thousands more.
In a written response to a public-records request by the conservative nonprofit Citizens for a Strong New Hampshire, Hassan's chief of staff Pamela Walsh said "non-refundable travel arrangements" had already been paid for when the governor announced a freeze on hiring and out-of-state travel.
Lawmakers approved $15,000 for the state’s share of expenses related to the trip last year. The freeze, announced May 14, was in response to a $22 million drop in April's revenue projections. Administrative Services Commissioner Linda Hodgdon said Tuesday that May's revenues were also below estimates by about $3 million.
While publicly criticizing Hassan for going ahead with the trade mission, Citizens for a Strong New Hampshire filed two right-to-know request with the governor's office, seeking records related to the trip.
Republican gubernatorial candidate Walt Havenstein has also questioned the trip while criticizing Hassan, saying "a trade mission without an economic development plan is just a vacation."
Andrew Hemingway, who is also seeking the Republican nomination for governor, launched a petition drive, asking Hassan to "stop wasting taxpayer dollars on family vacations."
Hassan said she is paying for her daughter to accompany the group, which includes a delegation of New Hampshire businesses.
Earlier Tuesday, Jeffrey Rose, commissioner of the Department of Resources and Economic Development, which planned the mission, defended it.
"International trade plays a vital role in our state’s economy and the legislature recognized this when it passed the bipartisan budget, which included funding for the state to resume trade missions," he wrote in an op-ed.
"Having the governor lead the mission elevates our companies as they meet with business and government organizations. This would not happen for a business going it alone."
The mission is scheduled for June 20-27. It was organized in partnership with the Turkish Cultural Center in Manchester and the Confederation of Businessmen and Industrialists of Turkey.