In the clouds

• State officials need to be more diligent about how they use tax payer owned plane.

Did you know that you own a plane? Well, you’re a partial owner of a plane. All Kansans are, since the state owns a nine-passenger Raytheon King Air 350.

We don’t know about you, but as part owners of this airplane, we’re less than excited to find out that it’s been being used by legislators and state officials for everything from attending fundraising dinners to attending sporting events.

Using the Freedom of Information Act, the Associated Press recently uncovered that the plane has been used for quite a few expensive excursions that we have a hard time saying were necessary in the current budget crunch.

According to the AP, Governor Sam Brownback used the plane for two trips to out-of-state football and basketball games, which ended up costing the taxpayers $1,716.

A spokesperson for the governor pointed out that traveling to out-of-state games is something that many governors have done in the past, but we fail to see why that justifies using taxpayer dollars for it now.

One of the biggest abusers of the state’s aircraft is Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach, who has flown 4,350 miles on taxpayers’ dollars in 15 months, often to end up at party fundraisers or other functions that look pretty unessential to running the state.

The state is in a budget crunch. All kinds of programs—from our schools to our highways—are seeing funding dwindle. Kansas taxpayers are forking over more in sales tax.

And just as we all do in our own homes when times are lean, it’s time for the state to cut back on extras. As private citizens, we all have to make tough decisions about cutting back on eating out or going on that family vacation when times are tough. Local business owners must make the tough decisions to cut back on extras or wait another year to give out deserved raises to employees. What makes our government any different?

We understand that some travel is necessary. Agriculture Secretary Jackie McClaskey used the plane to travel to lots of meetings all over the state dealing with many issues important to Kansas farmers, for example. Her office pointed out that flying to these meetings saved more money than driving and staying in overnight accommodations would have.

We’re not saying that the plane should be grounded until further notice and that members of our state’s government should never leave the statehouse.

But we need to get back to common sense in this state. As a traditionally Republican state, our voters have tried hard to support fiscal responsibility and cutting back on big government in the past. We need to get back to that tradition in the present.

Sure, seeing the governor wave to the crowd on television for 10 seconds during an NCAA tournament is a nice way for him to show support for our state’s athletes, but we would argue that our representatives getting back to the business of running our state efficiently and effectively is an even better way to support all Kansans.

It would be good for those in Topeka to remember that the plane they’re using isn’t theirs—it’s ours, and taking careful consideration of every dollar spent is important, especially when they belong to the people of Kansas.

– Editorial by Lindsey Young, co-owner of Kansas Publishing Ventures, which publishes
The Hillsboro Free Press.

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