New deal for state plane raises old concerns

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (WJHG/WECP) - Florida is about to spend just over $15 million on a new jet for the Governor.

Governor Ron DeSantis could soon get a new plane worth more than $15 million. (Capitol News Service)

Former Governor Rick Scott, who left for the U.S. Senate, sold the state's planes shortly after he was sworn in.

The new purchase is raising old fears. The misuse of state airplanes helped Scott get elected.

As a candidate Scott repeatedly ran ads against his opponents, criticizing their use of the fleet for campaign purposes and personal matters.

Scott ordered two state planes sold days after he was sworn in.

“It’s a campaign promise I made and I’m going to live up to them,” said Scott in 2011.

Since taking office in January, Governor Ron DeSantis has been traveling on a refurbished King Air, similar to the one the state sold. It’s had to make at least one emergency landing.

“Air things dropped from the ceiling,” said DeSantis, recalling the event at a press conference in January.

Now the state has awarded a $15.5 million bid to Textron Aviation. The Cessna Latitude is being purchased by the Department of Law Enforcement.

DeSantis' communications director Helen Ferre said FDLE has strict guidelines for protecting and transporting the Governor.

However, Ben Wilcox with Integrity Florida said he worries old habits could return without a strict new policy.

“I think they should establish strict rules that delineate how the plane will be used. So, not for personal business, not for campaign business, but for public business, legitimate public business,” said Wilcox.

In addition to an initial payment of $1.3 million for the plane, the state has also budgeted $3.8 million to operate it.

Negotiations with the plane's maker are still underway.

Bid specifications call for the new jet to seat nine, come with WIFI, and even a seat belt in the lavatory.

Once final, the plane has to be delivered within 60 days.

A reminder: Rick Scott was a multimillionaire with his own jet. Ron DeSantis has a net worth of $283,000 and no plane.

Copyright 2019 WJHG. All rights reserved.