Rotunda: Purchase of airplane reconsidered for state, but still no go

2013-04-08T14:00:00Z 2013-04-23T17:52:05Z Rotunda: Purchase of airplane reconsidered for state, but still no goBy JoANNE YOUNG and KEVIN O'HANLON / Lincoln Journal Star

The Legislature's Appropriations Committee is meeting daily in executive sessions to consider -- and reconsider -- various agency requests and spending bills for the final budget.

On Monday, the committee reconsidered whether to spend $2.2 million for the purchase of the University of Nebraska Foundation's 2001 nine-passenger King Air for use as the state's main passenger plane. 

The answer: Still no. Only a minority of committee members supported the purchase.

The state currently has an older eight-seat Piper Cheyenne, but it also can charter flights when needed, committee members said.

Sen. John Wightman, who made the motion to put the purchase into the final budget, said most states -- especially rural states with lots of geography to travel -- have planes.

"I think it's worth the expense," he said.

"I think the fact is that if you don't have the plane, if they're chartering, you're not going to see them out in the west end of the state as much as you do now. … And I think it's important to the people out there that they do have access."

But the majority remained unconvinced.

The committee had asked in February for the state Department of Aeronautics to pay for a study to give the committee more information about why the purchase would be a financially sound one and whether the plane was really needed.

"Air travel does not go away if we don't do this," Appropriations Chairman Heath Mello said. "By purchasing a plane, it's a convenience more than anything else."

Lincoln Sen. Kate Bolz said there just had not been a good case made by the Aeronautics Department on a cost comparison between purchasing the King Air and chartering flights.

Taking ownership

Omaha Sen. Scott Lautenbaugh poked fun Wednesday at Omaha Sen. Ernie Chambers' recurring proclamation that he owns the Legislature.

During debate on the budget process, Lautenbaugh proclaimed: "You can't stop me. I OWN all of you!'

Chambers countered, "No, you don't! I do!"

Lautenbaugh quickly amended his statement.

"OK, I rented you -- with an option."

Reach JoAnne Young at 402-473-7228 or Reach Kevin O'Hanlon at 402-473-2682 or kohanlon@journal

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