Kasich Discovers Perks and Perils of State Plane Travel

By: - December 20, 2011 12:00 am

For many governors, the convenience of having a state plane at their disposal outweighs the political risk of looking a little extravagant to their voters.

That seems to be the case for Ohio’s John Kasich, who, as a candidate, criticized his predecessor for overusing state planes. The Columbus Dispatch reviewed Kasich’s travel on public aircraft through this past August, in his first eight months in office, and found that Kasich racked up double the expenses for flying on state planes that his predecessor had during all of 2010.

But the governor’s office says Kasich criticized the flying habits of then-Governor Ted Strickland because Strickland regularly ordered the planes to fly the short distance across Columbus to be nearer to Strickland’s office. Kasich’s office says he used the planes to push for job creation and governmental reform. “We wished (Strickland) had used the plane more” for those purposes, a Kasich spokesman told the paper.

Virginia’s second-year governor, Republican Bob McDonnell, also has used his state’s fleet of aircraft more often than his Democratic predecessor, notes Norfolk’s WVEC . The Republican’s expenses for using state airplanes and helicopters was 30 percent higher than that of Tim Kaine, the Democrat who governed the state before McDonnell.

During his reelection campaign this year, Democrat Steve Beshear of Kentucky faced questions about his use of state aircraft, which included a nine-city barnstorming tour during the first two days of the legislative session. Beshear insisted that the stops were not related to his re-election effort, but he later paid the state back for a separate trip that included a political event. Still, Beshear may have deflected the controversy when he called a press conference at an airplane hangar a month later to announce the state was selling two of its seven airplanes on eBay.

Meanwhile, two new governors were selling off planes used by their predecessors and other state officials. New Mexico’s Susana Martinez sold one of the state’s three planes in August, while Florida’s Rick Scott sold two of Florida’s planes in February. Scott travels on his own private jet .

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