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Amy Sherman
By Amy Sherman February 14, 2011

State sells off planes

On Feb. 11, 2011, Gov. Rick Scott authorized the sale of two state airplanes to out-of-state buyers.

Scott "directed the Department of Management Services to accept two bids that were revealed earlier this week," according to a Scott press release. "This sale of two state-owned airplanes will net the state of Florida more than $560,000 in savings this fiscal year, and it will eliminate the annual operating and leasing costs of $2.4 million per year.

"Burdening taxpayers with these ongoing expenses is irresponsible and not a core function for government to meet the state's critical needs," Scott said in the release.

The planes are a 2000 King Air 350 and a 2003 Cessna Citation Bravo. The St. Petersburg Times described the buyers on Feb. 12: A Mexican-American oil-field services firm, Transportes Internacionales Tamaulipecos, bid $1.9 million for the Cessna jet, and the nine-passenger King Air prop plane brought a bid of $1.77 million from JNC Aircraft Sales of Washington, D.C.

The Scott-O-Meter had written on Jan. 7 about Scott's first step toward this promise when his office listed the two planes for sale during his first week as governor. Scott has said he will use his own private airplane and suggested other state officials drive or fly commercially.

Our earlier promise update noted that the state does not own the nicer aircraft, the 2003 Cessna Citation jet acquired by former Gov. Jeb Bush. It is being leased, and the payoff amount is $3.4 million, so the state would have to sell the jet for more than that to turn a profit.

DMS spokesman Kris Purcell broke down the savings for us in an e-mail on Feb. 14:

"Sale brings in $3.665M. That pays off lease of $3.4M, leaving $263k surplus. After all fees are covered (10% of sale, $366k) and cost savings (salaries, maintenance, lease payments for rest of fiscal year, $659k) are combined with $263k, approx. $556k will be remaining and returned to General Revenue. For each fiscal year beginning with new one July 1, the State saves additional $2.4M annually (salaries, maintenance, lease payments, etc.)"

The sale eliminated 11 full-time jobs of pilots and support personnel, according to the St. Petersburg Times article.

Purcell said in an interview that both bidders were expected to wire the money on Feb. 14.

"JNS is set to take possession of the King Air tomorrow," Purcell wrote in an e-mail. "Transportes Internacionales has not set a date for handover."

Later in the day he e-mailed: "The wire transfer with JNS has been completed and just awaiting confirmation on the Cessna wire transfer."

In January, it was unclear whether Scott needed approval of the Cabinet or Legislature to sell the planes. Purcell said it was determined it was under the governor's discretion.

Purcell added: "That decision came from the governor's general counsel," according to DMS' general counsel and DMS' budget director. "Also, we were required to notify the Legislature and DFS (Department of Financial Services)," and that notification was expected to be completed Feb. 15.

Scott promised to sell the state airplanes and in his second month in office, he authorized the sale. The money was wired and the sale completed on Feb. 14. We rate this one a Promise Kept.

UPDATE: When this item was posted Feb. 14, 2011, we quoted DMS' Purcell as saying that notification of the sale to the Department of Financial Services had been done. On Feb. 15, Purcell said the notification to DFS would be completed that day.

Our Sources

Aaron Sharockman
By Aaron Sharockman January 7, 2011

Scott puts state air fleet up for sale

Gov. Rick Scott used the state air fleet as fodder for attacks against his opponents during the 2010 campaign.

And also, as a way to show his fiscal restraint.

Scott's 527 group "Let's Get to Work" ran a television ad last summer criticizing Attorney General Bill McCollum, his Republican primary opponent, for spending $280,000 to use the state airplane, including for personal travel. The ad also claimed that McCollum "diverted a state plane to his home 53 times," and that a state auditor called those diversions likely a misuse of state resources.

PolitiFact Florida previously investigated the ad, rating it Barely True, and you can read about the specific claims here. But as part of Scott's attack, he also made a promise -- if elected, he would sell off the state air fleet.

Scott attempted to start the process to deliver on that pledge on Jan. 5, 2011, when the governor's office officially listed the two planes for sale.

"The privilege of using a state-owned aircraft is an unnecessary burden to taxpayers, especially when lower-cost travel options exist," Scott said. "As elected officials, it is our responsibility to utilize the most affordable options for official business, and I do not believe state-owned airplanes are the best option."

The current budget for the two planes is $2.4 million. Bids for the aircraft, a 2000 King Air 350 and a 2003 Cessna Citation Bravo, will be opened at 2 p.m. on Feb. 9, 2011.

But it's unclear if that means the planes will be sold immediately.

First, the state does not own the nicer aircraft, the 2003 Cessna Citation jet acquired by former Gov. Jeb Bush. It is being leased, and the payoff amount is $3.4 million, so the state would have to sell the jet for more than that to turn a profit.

And there is a debate over whether Scott can unilaterally sell the planes without the approval of the Cabinet, or the Legislature.

Chief Financial Officer Jeff Atwater said on Jan. 5 that he believes the sales would require a vote of the governor and Cabinet, and that he would support the move. "If he wants to recommend selling, I'd second the motion," Atwater said.

And House Speaker Dean Cannon offered a statement that lawmakers "look forward to discussing (Scott's) plan for selling the state aircraft with him and his staff. If additional authority is required, we will work with the Governor to determine what steps may need to be taken.”

Asked on Jan. 6 if he had the authority to sell the state air pool, Scott said, "It has to go through the Legislature, is my understanding." But asked on Jan. 7 why he made an executive order to sell the planes if he needs legislative approval, Scott said: "That's not my understanding. I'm not sure. I have to check into that, but that's not my understanding. It's not my understanding right now."

The state planes can be used by a variety of state employees, but priority is given to the governor, the Cabinet, the chief justice of the Florida Supreme Court and the leaders of the House and Senate.

Scott says he will use his own seven-seat Raytheon 400A twin engine jet to traverse the state, and suggested others drive or fly commercially.

We'll be watching to see if the planes are sold, and if a vote of the Cabinet or Legislature is needed. But in the meantime this promise definitely has taken off. We rate it In the Works.

Our Sources

News Service of Florida, Scott orders sale of state airplanes, Jan. 5, 2011

Miami Herald, Scott orders sale of both state airplanes, Jan. 5, 2011

2000 King Air 350 sale listing,  accessed Jan. 6, 2011

2003 Cessna Citation Bravo sale listing, accessed Jan. 6, 2011

PolitiFact Florida, Rick Scott group goes after 'Air McCollum' in new TV ad, July 16, 2010

Fort Myers News-Press, Florida government jet doesn't fly with Scott, Sept. 13, 2010

St. Petersburg Times, Rick Scott grounds state planes, says drive or fly commercial, Jan. 7, 2011

Sarasota Herald-Tribune, Getting rid of state plane may not be so easy, Jan. 7, 2011

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