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The state’s airplanes

I tried, I really did, to work up some outrage over this story about public officials using a plane from the state’s fleet instead of a commercial flight, but I couldn’t quite do it. None of the examples cited are egregious enough to make me care; the ones that would have been so had they been funded by taxpayer dollars were paid for by the users of the plane. You can have a discussion about the purpose this thing and whether it’s being used properly, but based on what I read it’d be mostly splitting hairs. There’s bigger fish to fry than that.

Two points of interest to note:

Then-Comptroller Carole Keeton Strayhorn and [Governor Rick] Perry talked about selling the planes during the 2003 budget crunch.


The fleet, previously under the State Aircraft Pooling Board, was targeted by Strayhorn and Perry in 2003 when the state faced a $10 billion budget shortfall. Strayhorn then said selling the planes and associated property would yield $18.2 million. Perry vetoed the pooling board, but the fleet was transferred to TxDOT.

Perry spokeswoman Kristi Piferrer said Perry “doesn’t really have an opinion one way or another” now about whether the fleet should be maintained. She said, “His main priority has always been that aircraft are used for state business and are operated on a cost recovery basis.”

I’m just amused that for all of the Governor’s privatization fetishes, from tolls roads to the Lottery, he drew the line at the state’s fleet of airplanes. You’d think that would have been a natural fit, especially given the time when the idea was floated, but apparently not. Go figure.

[Michael Quinn Sullivan of Texans for Fiscal Responsibility] said $18 million is a small percentage of the state’s $152.5 billion two-year budget but added, “It’s not a small amount of money … You take the richest person in Texas, and they notice when $18 million is gone.”

Sullivan must have pitched this story, because he’s quoted throughout. As is often the case when his name pops up, his math is a little funny. According to Forbes Magazine, the richest person living in Texas is Alice Walton, whose net worth is a tidy $19 billion. That means that $18 million represents less than 0.1% of her wealth, or less than a dime for every hundred dollars. She’d notice it, but I doubt she’d give it much thought. In terms of the state budget, which is eight times greater than that (when you count federal monies), it’s a bit more than a penny for every $100. Like I said, there’s bigger fish to fry.

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One Comment

  1. julia says:

    Now now. The Waltons (and I believe their employees will back me up here) didn’t get where they are without begrudging dimes.