Virginia's tax-payers pay Gov. John Dalton's $60,000-a-year salary, the maintenance on his official mansion and the cost of his state-owned, $13,398 Lincoln Continental limousine. All that is widely known.
What might surprise some tax-payers, however, is that they also pay for dry cleaning bills for both the govenor and his wife, for "day trips for relaxation" for the governor and his family, food for his private residence in Radford, thousands of dollars worth of gifts the governor gives away, and the salaries of a band of state troopers who run the Daltons' errands in addition to providing security.
Because this is at public expense, Dalton and his family generate a stack of expense vouchers and receipts wherever they go. A glimpse through the files of these vouchers offers a revealing look at what it costs to maintain a governor, right down to the dirty laundry.
In March, for instance, the state paid $747.40 for a chair for the governor's office. Two months later, at public expense, the Daltons had a $330 oven and a $486,55 electric range installed upstairs in the mansion for Mrs. Dalton'c cooking although there is already a large kitchen downstairs.
Replacing a freezer in the mansion's basement cost $2,339.60 in August, and the combined food bills for May and June for the mansion - and the Daltons' private home in Radford - was nearly $6,500.
Traditionally frugal Virginians, however, are less likely to notice the larger items - a January bill for $592.05 worth of flowers, for instance - than the are to see smaller, more personal things, like a May bill of $7.25 to clean Mrs. Dalton's blouse, dress and coat.
If the governor's expenses are not normally a topic of conversation in the gentlemanly atmosphere of traditional Virginia politics, they became one recently when newspapers in Richmond and Roanoke complained about the governor's travel costs.
Dalton, a millionaire himself, raised the cost issue in June when he announced he was tightening rules governing travel by state workers, and canceled several trips planned by faculty members at state schools. At the time, he said, "you can't help but think we can save some money and cut some of our spending."
Despite her husband's statements, that same month Mrs. Dalton bought nearly $4,500 worth of jewelry and silk scarves at the taxpayers' expense to give away during an official trip the Daltons made to Europe last summer.
Although some observers have found a discrepancy between the governor's public belt-tightening statements and the actual practice of using taxpayers' money to pay for such items as dry cleaning, Dalton's aides bristle when the subject is raised.
"I don't think that's really a fair question," said aide William Royall when asked about the possible disparity between the governor's $60,000 salary and the fact the state pays for items like dry-cleaning bills.
Royal notes that, as the chief executive officer of Virginia, Dalton handles a larger budget than any of the state's top corporations, but is paid far less than many corporate executives and less than he earned as a private attorney.
Dalton aides also noted that taxpayer payment of special gubernatorial expenses are common in state-houses around the country.
Explaining that the governor's schedule takes him through several changes of clothes a day and a constant round of lunches and dinners with official guests, Royall says, "These are expenses the governor would not ordinarily have as a private citizen."
Probably not. A $1,299.90 seafood bill for May includes a $310 shipment of large shrimp and more than $500 worth of king crab meat. The steaks listed in a grocery bill the same month includes 20 rib-eyes, 20 T-bones, 20 New York strips, 10 tender loins and 10 filet mignons.
Then there are the state troopers. Each carries a state credit card on which many of Mrs. Dalton's purchases are made. Example: Two unexplained purchases at a downtown Richmond retail store on July 26 and Aug. 2 totaling $161.29.
In most cases, the records specify the retail purchases, such as an item described as "wine and ham," another called an egg plate, and one that apparently is a pair of shoes.
The troopers' credit cards also cover the meals and other costs on the family's "day trips for relaxation" and minor bills when the governor travels, such as a $14.75 purchase of plates in June when the governor was accompained to Key Biscayne, Fla., by two members of his security force.
Besides, providing security, the troopers also act as drivers for the governor and Mrs. Dalton, who is assigned a $200-a-month rental car.
"We all know the governor is not going to take his guests to the White Tower for dinner," says Charles K. Trible, the state's auditor for public accounts, who says there is no impropriety over Dalton's expenses as far as state law is concerned.
But Mike Ives, a writer for the Roanoke Times World News, had a few objections. "If we wash your clothes and pay your rent and buy your food and booze and foot the bill for your travel expenses and give you two Lincoln automobiles . . . what can you possibly spend your salary on? Ives asked in an open letter to the governor earlier this month.
The extent of the Dalton's social schedule is evident from the expense records. The January inaugural alone cost $8,000. There is a steady schedule of official dinners. The liquor bill for June was $506.30, and for July $566.40. Royall says the Daltons pay for their own liquor when they are not on official business.
And if critics say Dalton lives lavishly, defenders can point to an expense account submitted by the governor's staff for May 25. It is for a single item, the governor's lunch in his office. It is for $1.25.