The state of North Carolina deserves some credit for selling off two planes, one each from the Department of Commerce and the Department of Transportation, per the suggestion of an April 2010 report on the massively inefficient and startlingly cost-ineffective operation of state-owned aircraft. The Department of Commerce sold a 27 year old passenger aircraft in October 2009 and the Department of Transportation sold a 27 year old passenger aircraft in January 2010.
Currently, the Department of Commerce and the Department of Transportation own two aircraft each, all four of which are used to fly our government officials, Governor Perdue and UNC chancellor Holden Thorp among them, to destinations like the ACC men’s basketball tournament and destinations far from Raleigh, not easily accessible by car, like Jacksonville, NC.
While the current Senate Budget does specifically say that any travel to collegiate events must be fully paid for by the state officials who are traveling, the fact remains that the state officials are using state aircraft to travel when commercial travel or chartered flights are good enough for the rest of us. The budget does not address the travel of state officials to destinations easily accessible by car. Intuitively, vehicular travel is cheaper than air travel and, when traveling from Raleigh to Charlotte, is as time efficient. That is, unless there is traffic because the Highway Trust Fund’s budget continues to be raided to pay for many of the wasteful expenditures in the General Fund and is thus unable to provide adequate vehicular transit infrastructure.
The two aircraft owned by the Department of Commerce are, in the Senate Budget, being transferred to the Department of Transportation. As is an appropriation from the General Fund to pay for the increased costs to the Department of Transportation. That will leave the Department of Transportation with a total of four aircraft to fly our state officials around. Still, Department of Transportation dollars will be spent on flying the governor instead of providing highway infrastructure to ease traffic congestion in your town. So, next time you’re sitting in traffic and you hear a plane flying overhead, be sure to wave because it just might be your governor jet-setting in a taxpayer-owned airplane to some faraway place like Burlington or Greensboro.