Local Politics

Easley grounds planned purchase of $9.2M jet

Posted October 8, 2008

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— Gov. Mike Easley on Wednesday canceled a deal for the state to purchase a $9.2 million jet, citing a lousy economy that had led him to call for budget cuts from most state agencies.

The deal for the Cessna Citation Encore was included in the 2007 budget. The sleek, powerful jet was supposed to replace a King Air turboprop in the state air fleet operated by the Department of Commerce.

In addition to the turboprop, the Department of Commerce uses an older Cessna and a helicopter to ferry business executives around while recruiting industry.

"Knowing what I know about the utilization of the aircraft and how expensive it is, (the new jet) wasn't justified in good times or bad," said Don Carrington, vice president of the conservative John Locke Foundation, who has researched and written about state use of the air fleet.

The new Cessna also was included in the 2008-09 state budget Easley signed this summer. When WRAL News and other media outlets called his office Wednesday afternoon to ask about the jet, he pulled the plug on the deal.

"Gov. Easley has told all cabinet secretaries and agencies, until credit markets loosen up and the economy gets moving, that they are to limit expenditures to a minimum," spokeswoman Sherri Johnson said. "The appropriation for the plane was in the 2007 budget. The plane was not purchased then, and it will not be purchased now. And certainly, a plane will not be purchased in this economy."

Easley last month ordered state agencies to cut their annual budgets by 2 percent, and he said this week he might increase those cuts to 3 percent. He said he wants to conserve about $700 million to prevent his successor from inheriting a ballooning budget deficit when he or she takes office in January.

A 3 percent cut would shave less than $600 million off the $21.4 billion state budget because public schools, Medicaid and student financial aid would be exempt from the cuts.

The state made a $250,000 down-payment on the jet, and Johnson said Easley is working to recoup that money.

"The world has dramatically changed. We're going to have to get along with what we got," Senate Majority Leader Tony Rand said, noting he agreed with Easley's decision to cancel the Cessna purchase. "We might have to start walking around here. Flying is not nearly as important."

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  • bluewind Oct 9, 2008

    Wannabe Bev Purdue has learned at the master's feet!!! Don't elect her in Novemeber!!! It'll just be 4 more years of elitist, arrogant stealing of the taxpayers hard-earned dollars.

  • james27613 Oct 9, 2008

    Even better, the Bell 430 way less expensive then a jet.

    http://www.bellhelicopter.com/en/aircraft/commercial/bell430.cfm

    Sure, jet plane but you still need cars on the ground
    after it lands. what was our legislature thinking when
    they put this in the budget in 2007 ?

  • WRALSUCKS Oct 9, 2008

    THis shouldn't have been considered in a STRONG economy! Who do these people think they are? Oh wait, they work for the $60 cheeseburger administration!

  • beachboater Oct 9, 2008

    In this economy, the NC government signs a contract for $9.2 million and gives a deposit of $250,000, AND the state backs out, do you think Easley will get the deposit back?????

    Now way Jose. The state broke the contract, the deposit is bye bye.

    I think the purchase of Grandfather Mountain was probably a good move. No telling when if ever, the opportunity would come around to buy it in the future. The state needs to own Grandfather Mountain.

  • Soundguy Oct 9, 2008

    Hats off to the media for bringing this story to the public. Had they not found it I know for a fact that the order would have never been cancelled and we taxpayers would be paying the bill!

  • kimberly1110 Oct 9, 2008

    "The world has dramatically changed. We're going to have to get along with what we got," Senate Majority Leader Tony Rand said.

    Thanks for pointing that one out. Except most people in this state have been getting along with what they got their entire lives.

  • kimberly1110 Oct 9, 2008

    Had I known he wanted to buy a jet I would have taken my tax money back and bought myself a one-way coach ticket outta here.

    Too bad we can't...

    No more wasteful spending!

  • mw Oct 9, 2008

    seems like $12mil the state just spent on the huge rock we call grand father mtn should have been postponed for a while also. its not going anywhere so why spend the $$$ days after the gov says cut back 3% and days before the state parks budget froze? and what about the 24 mil on that other big rock, chimney rock?

  • clarkk225 Oct 9, 2008

    fun - Hummm...nixed the new jet to land on the new 5000 ft. runway on Oak Island. Oh well...sorry Mikey we all are making adjustments.

    Speaking of Oak Island. Anybody seen his house that we are all paying for? Oh my...it's sweet, right on the ICW! I think we should all start calling to see if we can make reservations in our "timeshare" beach home!

  • enoughsenough Oct 9, 2008

    2/3 of state employees are making under $31,000 per year. That is why 89% have 2nd jobs. Some are lucky enough to have a spouse working too.

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