SitNews - Stories in the News - Ketchikan, Alaska




September 02, 2006

Just how did the Governor get that Jet? A letter issued this week by the Alaska Department of Public Safety confirms that Governor Frank H. Murkowski, in May, used language included by the Alaska Legislature in a budget bill to finance the purchase. According to the Alaska Department of Public Safety letter, the state still owes $2.6 million on a "line of credit" the state secured to pay for the Governor's Westwind II Executive Jet.

Alaska Democrats said Friday that the purchase of the jet could easily have been prevented.
Sen. Gretchen Guess (D-Anchorage) said, "We could have easily prevented the Governor's Jet purchase. Alaskans would be right to say we should have done that when we had the chance."
In 2005 Sen. Guess and other Democrats warned that even though the Legislature didn't provide Governor Murkowski with funds to pay for his jet, budget language passed by the legislature would still allow his jet purchase. That language authorized the state to sell existing aircraft to pay for the new Westwind II executive jet. A letter this week from the Department of Public Safety confirms that, pursuant to this legislative authorization, one of the state's King Air prop planes was sold in May. The proceeds from this sale were then used to pay down the state's debt obligations on the jet.
Guess pointed this language out during the 2005 budget debate, and introduced an amendment to prevent the state from using the proceeds from a prop plane sale to finance the jet purchase. A majority of the Republican-led Senate voted against the amendment down.
In a 100-plus page budget bill was language that stated: "[P]roceeds from the sale of Department of Public Safety aircraft and surplus aircraft parts and accessories are appropriated from the general fund to the Department of Public Safety for the purchase of replacement aircraft or for aircraft maintenance." This language gave the Governor authority to pledge the sale of one of his King Air prop planes to secure financing the state received in 2005, following the passage of the 2005 budget bill, for the Westwind Jet.
The amendment Guess offered on May 17, 2005, provided that no state funds, including funds from the sale of any of the state's existing fleet of aircraft, could be used "toward the cost of purchasing, leasing, or operating a fixed wing jet aircraft by the state."
This week's letter from the Alaska Department of Public Safety was issued at the request of Rep. Les Gara (D-Anchorage), who asked how the state was paying the financing on the Westwind II jet.
According to Sen. Hollis French (D-Anchorage), who also voted for Guess' Amendment, "The Legislature had an opportunity to act, and it didn't."
"We wouldn't have to worry about whether the Governor's using this jet for personal travel if we simply stopped him from buying it in the first place," said Sen. Kim Elton (D-Juneau). Elton has chronicled the Governor's misuse of this jet since its purchase.

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Alasaka Democrats

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Ketchikan, Alaska