The Highway Patrol’s purchase of an expensive new airplane has put the appointment of a key figure in Governor Nixon’s administration in jeopardy.
The Patrol, without asking for bids, and without consulting legislative budget officials bought a new $5.6-million airplane last month. Several Republican state senators are critical of the man Nixon wants to run the Office of Administration for, as they put it, rubber-stamping the deal. That man is Doug Nelson, a longtime Nixon associate.
Former House budget Chairman Ryan Silvey of Kansas City, now a state senator, calls it a “terrible use of state money.” And Savannah Senator Brad Lager says some aircraft owner-friends of his have told him they “never would have even thought of buying a brand new aircraft right now because on the used market right now they’re paying 35 to 38 cents on the dollar.”
Senate Appropriations Chairman Kurt Schafer of Columbia says there was never an appropriation for the airplane nor a request for one by the Patrol for an appropriation. And it does not replace any Patrol planes.
Lager says the $5.6-milion plane will cost $900 an hour to fly. “They fly those aircraft between 200 (hours)…maybe 300 hours per year, say, in a busy year, So it would take twenty years to cover just the capital costs, let alone the operating costs,” he tells fellow Senators during a floor discussion of the deal.
The senate is refusing to confirm Nelson as Commissioner of Administration until it gets some satisfactory answers about why he approved the purchase and how the plane will be used. Some Republican Senators note the plane has the range to fly easily to places like New Hampshire and Iowa–which they suggest might figure into Nixon’s political plans in 2016.