Sunday, May 27, 2018
Politics

Steve Bousquet: New jet helps Gov. Rick Scott crisscross Florida

Rick Scott is the first governor in the history of Florida (and likely the last) to travel the state in his own personal jet.

He's a one-man airline.

Air Scott.

As a candidate in 2010, Scott thought it was extravagant for taxpayers to pay for two state aircraft to transport politicians in the nation's fourth-largest state. Elect me, Scott promised, and I'll get rid of those expensive toys.

He got elected and ditched both planes, which would have been impossible if Scott wasn't rich enough to travel in style on his own nickel.

Selling the planes grounded other state officials, who must travel by car or fly on the rare scheduled commercial flights out of Tallahassee, which is often impractical.

In today's Florida, the only elected official who gets to fly is the one who can afford it.

Everywhere Scott goes, he does it on his own aircraft at his own expense, and after nearly two-and-a-half years in office, he has decided he needs an upgrade.

Scott is selling his eight-passenger Hawker 400XP, made by Raytheon in 2004, for $1.495 million. An ad for the jet on the website controller.com says the jet is in Bonita Springs and notes: "Price reduction! Sale pending."

Scott's new chariot is a 2008 Cessna Citation Excel, a 12-passenger twin-engine jet with a dropped aisle that offers enough headroom for Scott to stand tall in the cabin.

The Cessna is white with pink trim and the plane's tail number ends with the letters "AS," which can only stand for first lady Ann Scott (the old plane's tail number ended with "RS").

The new plane, like the old one, is registered to a Naples holding company, Columbia Collier Properties, whose signatory on legal documents is Ann Scott. The purchase price of the new plane was not immediately available, and it's not the kind of information the governor's office would willingly provide.

"The governor wants to travel the state as often as possible to listen to the concerns and ideas of Floridians," said Scott's chief spokeswoman, Melissa Sellers.

Scott travels more often than his predecessor and possible future rival, Charlie Crist, who traveled at taxpayers' expense. In fact, the Republican Party of Florida, as part of a series critically examining Crist's record, noted that Monday was the fourth anniversary of a Times/Herald story that cited his use of state aircraft to attract publicity at ceremonial bill-signing events while campaigning for the U.S. Senate.

"By skillfully using the trappings of power, Crist can spread a popular message at public expense … as he did Tuesday in the state's two biggest media markets," the story said, at a cost of $4,800.

By paying for all of his flight costs, Scott has saved taxpayers a bundle, but exactly how much is a mystery. The governor's office says it has no records reflecting the costs to operate and maintain his own plane.

Also not known is how much of a tax benefit Scott derives by using his jet for business purposes.

Scott doesn't take a government salary, either. He is paid a penny a month, or 12 cents a year, which the state says is the minimum necessary for him to be registered in the state personnel system.

Contact Steve Bousquet at [email protected] or (850) 224-7263.

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