Missouri lawmakers want state airplane restricted

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by DAVID A. LIEB

AP

Posted on June 26, 2014 at 3:44 PM

Updated Thursday, Jun 26 at 9:41 PM

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. (AP) — Missouri's Republican legislative leaders are trying to block Democratic Gov. Jay Nixon from using state airplanes, citing budget troubles that have led Nixon to cut other areas of state spending.

House Budget Committee Chairman Rick Stream and Senate Appropriations Committee Chairman Kurt Schaefer sent a letter Wednesday to the Missouri State Highway Patrol asking it to limit the use of state airplanes to only emergency and law enforcement purposes.

The Republican lawmakers said other flight costs cannot be justified given Missouri's financial strains. General revenues are down 0.23 percent so far for the fiscal year that ends June 30, and revenues are running well short of the projections upon which the next budget was based.

Nixon frequently uses airplanes maintained by the patrol — typically a King Air 250 that the patrol purchased for $5.6 million in December 2012. Nixon traveled Wednesday to rural Richmond in western Missouri and Dexter in the southeastern corner of the state to hold events at which he defended his vetoes earlier this month of numerous tax-break bills passed by the Legislature.

On Tuesday, Nixon announced more than $1 billion of line-item budget vetoes and spending restrictions, citing concerns about declining revenues and the potential for legislators to decrease revenues further by overriding his vetoes of the tax break bills. Nixon said he would release his freeze on education funding increases if lawmakers sustain his vetoes of the tax breaks.

"While he continues to cut services for some of our most needy and education, he flies around in his state-of-art $6 million plane using state money to pay for the expense of pilots, maintenance, fuel, and other associated travel costs," Schaefer, of Columbia, said in a written statement.

A spokesman for the Highway Patrol had no immediate comment Wednesday about the legislators' request to restrict the use of the state airplane.

Nixon spokesman Scott Holste said in a written statement that: "Missourians expect their elected leaders to work together to tackle real challenges. That's what the governor has done, and that is what he will continue to do."

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