Friday, March 17, 2017

Missouri governor to sell one state airplane

JEFFERSON CITY • Gov. Eric Greitens’ administration is taking a page from his counterparts in Illinois when it comes to the state’s fleet of aircraft.

Just as former Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn, a Democrat, and current Illinois Gov. Bruce Rauner, a Republican, moved to jettison state-owned airplanes in the Land of Lincoln, Greitens is planning on selling one of the state's two passenger planes used by his predecessor, Democratic Gov. Jay Nixon.

Word of the grounding and potential sale of the state’s 1999 Beechcraft King Air C90 is contained in the latest budget proposal being mulled in the Missouri House of Representatives.

In the Department of Public Safety spending proposal, it calls for a $37,000 reduction in aircraft maintenance costs due to the sale of the twin-engine, six-passenger plane.

Rep. Kathie Conway, R-St. Charles, said the agency’s new director, Col. Sandy Karsten, gave the green light for the budget maneuver soon after she was sworn in earlier this month.

“She said we really did not have the need for the plane,” Conway told the Post-Dispatch Friday.

The decision comes after Greitens, a Republican who took office on Jan. 9, has said he is not planning to use the state plane.

That practice is a switch from the Nixon era, when the chief executive was routinely rapped by Republican lawmakers for his regular use of a taxpayer-funded state airplane to traverse the state.

However, now Democrats are complaining about Greitens use of private airplanes because the governor is not disclosing who is financing his flights.

In early March, the Post-Dispatch reported that the private plane that ferried Greitens from Jefferson City to Springfield to Las Vegas and to Washington, D.C. was owned by a company that operates newspapers and television stations from Missouri to California.

The governor’s office and top officials with the St. Joseph-based News-Press & Gazette Co. said the plane was leased by a third party because the company was not using it at the time.

Although taxpayers are not being billed for Greitens’ air travel, aides have not disclosed who is paying for the trips.

In Illinois, Quinn first announced the sale of nine of the state’s airplanes in 2014. Rauner inherited four unsold planes and one helicopter when he took over in 2015.

In the end, Illinois received $2.5 million for the aircraft and the reduction of an estimated $1 million in inspections and maintenance costs.

It was unclear Friday how Missouri might go about selling the airplane and how much it might bring into state coffers. When Illinois sold its 2000 King Air in 2015, the selling price was $1.7 million.

Conway said the remaining planes in Missouri’s fleet are not being eyed for grounding. The Department of Public Safety aircraft fleet consists of four helicopters, eight single-engine Cessnas and the King Airs.

Original article can be found here:   http://www.stltoday.com

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