AUSTIN, Texas (AP) - State officials and bureaucrats are still
using a state airplane fleet to shuttle them around the country.
That's even though Texas leaders tried to disband the fleet five
years ago to save tax dollars.
Officeholders such as Governor Rick Perry use the service to fly
to meetings, award ceremonies, funerals, even a neighboring
Republican governor's inauguration. Flyers say they look at cost
and efficiency before deciding whether to use the aircraft, which
range from $258.75 to $977.50 per flight-hour.
But critics question the necessity of the fleet since bills are
often footed by taxpayers and commercial airfare may be cheaper.
Then-Comptroller Carole Keeton Strayhorn and Perry talked about
selling the planes during the 2003 budget crunch. But the Texas
Department of Transportation, which oversees the fleet, expects it
to log 1,227 more flight hours this two-year budget period than
last. The planes are expected to fly a total of 3,350 hours at a
cost of $2.3 million this budget cycle.