ANNAPOLIS -- Maryland Gov. William Donald Schaefer has made five trips abroad in the past two years at a cost to state taxpayers of $600,000, an expense administration officials said has been more than recouped by business the trips have generated.
A recent survey by City & State magazine ranked Maryland as one of the top three states in spending last year on governors' foreign trade missions.
"He can't travel enough for us," said Eric Feldmann, director of the Maryland International Division. "Every time he travels, he helps us bring home the bacon."
Jane Howard, a spokeswoman for the Department of Economic and Employment Development, said eight missions by the governor in 3 1/2 years have spurred $140 million in capital investment in the state, $21.5 million in trade and 814 new jobs to date.
The governor and a contingent of state and private industry officials left Saturday for a trip to Taiwan and Hong Kong, which state officials estimate will cost $70,000. During the trip, Schaefer will witness the signing of a multi-year contract for the state's new Seagirt Marine Terminal with shipping magnate Y.F. Chang, of Evergreen Marine Corp.
City & State reported that Maryland's foreign travel expenses in 1989 were exceeded only by Gov. James R. Thompson of Illinois, who spent $320,702 on two trips. Schaefer was tied with Gov. Ray Mabus of Mississippi in spending $200,000 on foreign travel that year, the magazine reported.
On his 1989 travels, Schaefer was accompanied by 34 state officials, more than any other governor, according to City & State. Other Schaefer trips included a first-class flight to Europe this spring, opera tickets for himself and 19 guests at $125 a seat and a $197.50-a-night room in the Savoy, considered Moscow's premier hotel.
"The governor is there to sell the state of Maryland as a good place to do business," said press secretary Paul E. Schurick. "It would be unfair to the people with whom we were meeting if he wasn't going first class."
In his eight years in office, Gov. Harry Hughes led trade missions to five countries. In four years, Schaefer has led trade missions to 20 countries.
Although Schaefer's spending in other areas sometimes has drawn criticism, legislators generally have applauded his economic development missions.
"We do like the idea of expanding into foreign markets for Maryland's business and Maryland's economy," said Del. Charles J. Ryan (D-Prince George's), chairman of the state House Appropriations Committee.