Using State Planes for Personal Uses

The House Speaker and Senate President are defending their use of state planes to travel to and from their districts. A newspaper report says $25,000, or one in three dollars spent by the legislature to use state plans this year has been on trips to and from home. Using state In 1982, the director of the Florida Highway Patrol lost his job for using the FHP's plane on personal business. Five years ago, Gov. Lawton Chiles reimbursed the state $1,145 he used the plane to go hunting and to football games.

"I hope we don't make it harder for our future governor to be able to carry out his duties," said Gov. Lawton Chiles in February of 1998.

With no ticket to buy, luggage to check or schedule to meet, the use of state planes has always been enticing for politicians.

"Before state government re-organized in the late 60's every cabinet officer, all six of them plus the governor, each had an airplane at their disposal. Then Gov. Reuben Askew in the early 70's decided a state air pool would be more efficient."

Only one of three state planes was in the hanger Monday, the other two were out. Where though is classified for security reasons.

The Senate President and House Speaker say they did nothing wrong and that planes have always been intoxicating, using the planes to travel to and from their districts. The law is vague, but the attorney general says there should be one guiding principle.

"You want to use it when it's a business purpose, a state purpose. That's the perimeters in which we all should live," says Attorney Gen. Charlie Crist.

Each year Florida taxpayers spend about a million, three hundred thousand dollars taking care of the state's air fleet. Demand for the use of the state fleet is likely to increase, especially after the state takes delivery of a $5 million jet next month.

The state has three levels of priority for using a state plane: Jeb Bush gets first rights to the use of the planes. The Lt. Governor, Cabinet members, Senate President, House Speaker and Chief Justice of the Supreme Court are next in line.