TAMPA, Fla. (WFLA) — Eleven years after then-Governor Rick Scott sold Florida’s executive aircraft because he owned his own private jet, the state legislature is looking to buy at least two new planes for use by leaders and lawmakers.
Now a U.S. senator, Rick Scott (R-Florida) isn’t making budget decisions for how the state transports its executives. As governor, he was already a multimillionaire and simply owned his own jet. Compared to Sen. Scott, Florida’s current governor is not independently wealthy. He does not own his own plane, so the state had to find and purchase a new one. Scott is still one of the wealthiest U.S. senators.
To get Gov. Ron DeSantis a jet after he took office in January 2019, the state refurbished a King Air. He could not buy or maintain a private plane on his own with a reported net worth of just under $349,000, as of his December 2020 financial disclosure. According to reporting by the News Service of Florida, the FDLE purchased the refurbished plane from the federal government at surplus for $10,000 in 2016.
Previous reports said the state sold the two planes for about $3.7 million in February 2011.
The plane broke down with DeSantis and Attorney General Ashley Moody onboard and had to make an emergency landing in St. Petersburg. The incident was three days after DeSantis took his oath of office as governor of the state.
Then, the Florida Department of Law Enforcement spent $15.5 million to buy a better jet for DeSantis to travel. They purchased a Cessna Citation Latitude, replacing the renovated plane in 2020. Previous reports said the state paid $1.3 million for the new plane in recurring costs, with $3.8 million to operate it from the state budget.
Now, the Florida Legislature has a proposed bill that would add two more planes to the state’s executive aircraft transport pool. Senate Bill 2512 sets up a state “executive aircraft” pool for use by officials on a first come, first serve basis. It also establishes specific aircraft to be used for specific sets of state leaders.
According to the proposed legislation, the governor gets a plane to himself, which would be designated “Aircraft 1.”
The text spells out who can ride in each of the two new planes to be purchased should the bill pass. Aircraft 2 is specifically set for use by only the lieutenant governor, cabinet members/officers, chief justice and justices of the Florida Supreme Court. Aircraft 3 is specifically set for the Florida Senate President or Speaker of the House, appointed secretaries and executive directors of executive branch departments, and chairs of the Florida Gaming Control Commission, Public Service Commission and Florida Commission on Offender Review only.
While the planes limit who can use them on a first-come, first-served basis, flyers are allowed to bring guests with them. This includes the governor when he may be traveling the state with someone such as his family or visiting officials.
The aircraft pool would have a mileage allowance set by the Legislature. It must be paid for through the Operating Trust Fund and managed by the Department of Management Services, where the executive aircraft pool would be created by the proposed bill.
SPB 2512 also says in the text that it is intended to operate on a full-cost-recovery basis, without using other available funds. DMS would charge the state officials traveling on or using the aircraft, at similar rates to mileage allowance specified by the Legislature.
The rates would have to be “not less than” what is currently allowed for allowances used for private vehicle travel, such as cars. Payments by lawmakers using the aircraft would be deposited in the state’s Operating Trust Fund, and “expended for costs incurred to operate the aircraft management activities of the department.”
Senate analysis of the bill, published Feb. 8, says the cost of the legislation would be $25.3 million from the state General Revenue Fund, and another $6 million in recurring fund form the Operating Trust Fund for “implementing and administering the executive aircraft pool.” The money would be included in the 2022-23 fiscal budget.
8 On Your Side has reached out to Scott for comment on the potential purchase of new planes, as his policy as governor removed them.