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Senate budget chief asks Gov. Rick Scott to justify his 'legal authority' to sell state planes

TALLAHASSEE — Gov. Rick Scott is on a political crash course with the Florida Senate's powerful budget chief, J.D. Alexander, who wrote a letter Tuesday asking the governor to cite the "legal authority" for the way he sold two state planes.

Sen. J.D. Alexander said he believed the Feb. 11 transaction was unlawful because the governor failed to get the Legislature to sign off on the $3.67 million deal and kept some of the money from reaching the state treasury — a highly unusual transaction.

Alexander, who wrote a letter last week saying the deal wasn't legal, wrote his followup Tuesday so that Scott would tell him specifically who advised the governor.

"In your response, please state specifically why this transaction did not violate Article VII, Section 1(c) of the Florida Constitution and Sections … [of] Florida Statutes," wrote Alexander, who says he supports the sale of the planes, but opposes the way the governor handled the deal.

The Governor's Office said Tuesday that Scott stands by his previous statements that the transaction was lawful.

"I reviewed that project step by step with our general counsel and we did the right thing," Scott said Friday. "And it's exactly what the taxpayers of this state want: They want to make sure that, as governor, I'm going to watch how you spend every dollar."

The disagreement between the two Republicans is significant in a state Capitol dominated by the GOP, which prefers to keep disputes within the party. Both politicians are independently wealthy, no-nonsense businessmen.

But Alexander is a seasoned lawmaker who's leaving office in 2012 due to term limits. A master of the budget process, he has the reputation of a straight talker who doesn't suffer antagonists lightly.

The Lake Wales Republican said he has nothing personal against Scott, whom he likes, or his advisers.

For years, Alexander has sought to sell the state planes, which were used to ferry lawmakers and judges across the state.

But the state planes weren't put up for sale until Scott won office and campaigned on selling the Cessna Citation Bravo jet and King Air 350 turbo prop. Alexander said he met with three Scott advisers and told them the Legislature needs to sign off on the sale. Scott said as much in early January, but then reversed himself.

Senate budget chief asks Gov. Rick Scott to justify his 'legal authority' to sell state planes 02/22/11 [Last modified: Wednesday, February 23, 2011 12:25am]
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