The Airport Authority today deferred discussion about whether it should adopt caps on travel expenses for its employees, who’ve had dinner bills as high as $99 while traveling. But the issue isn’t dead. The board will take it back up in November.

The authority currently has no limit on employee meal expenses. To be reimbursed, expenses must be “reasonable.” And $99 dinners have qualified.

In August, when I asked Airport Authority Chairman Bob Watkins about capping expenses, he didn’t like the idea, saying that it would put the authority at a disadvantage in hiring:

For me to go to that person (an employee) and tell him that he’s on a limited budget of 25 bucks for dinner and you’ve got Dallas airport who would love to have him who says we’ll give you an open checkbook, what’s he going to do in making a decision?

Well, he’s not going to go to Texas for the open checkbook. The Dallas Fort Worth International Airport doesn’t give its employees one. Their meals and lodging are subject to daily limits. The Dallas airport also sets limits for in-town business meal reimbursements, something the authority hasn’t proposed.

Airport employees in Detroit, Las Vegas and Los Angeles also have expense limits, according to an authority presentation today. Oakland and Portland do not. Nor do Washington, D.C.-area airports, which has caused problems similar to the one the Airport Authority now faces.

ROB DAVIS

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