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Holden's use of state planes drops

January 17, 2002
By: Matt Williams
State Capital Bureau

JEFFERSON CITY - Gov. Bob Holden has clipped his wings following criticism about his frequent use of state airplanes and the subsequent budget crisis.Holden flew on state planes 29 times in the second half of last year, compared to 75 times in the first six months of his term, according to state flight records.

The govenror's office says the cuts are part of the governor's pledge to trim his office's budget by 15 percent. Reductions in travel expenses, office supplies and other items by the Governor are expected to save the state almost $340,000.

"We are cutting big time and we are feeling the pinch," spokeswoman Chris Kelly said.

The governor's trips since July have cost $28,303 -- nearly a third of what he spent during his first six months in office. Kelly said the governor and his staff have chosen more often to drive to meetings an events. However, driving the governor takes significantly longer, with a flight to St. Louis from the Capital taking only 20 minutes, compared to two and a half hours by car.

"I think it's safe to say that the governor is doing a lot more driving than flying," Kelly said.

Holden was criticized in June after The Associated Press reported that the governor had been flying at a rate of once every two days -- much more than his predecessors did in the first months of their terms. Since then, Holden has cut back considerably, flying much less than Gov. Mel Carnahan did in the same periods in 1999 and 2000.

Holden also pledged to schedule meetings so that he wouldn't fly clear across the state or to the same cities on the same day. However, on October 5, Holden flew from the Capital to the Lake of the Ozarks, then to St. Louis, over to Kansas City, back to the Capital, back to Kansas City, then back to the Capital. The trip cost the state nearly $2,400.

Senate President Pro Tem Peter Kinder, R-Cape Girardeau, said he was encouraged that the governor cut down on the use of the plane.

"There's nothing like getting caught," Kinder said. "If he's reformed, that's a good sign."

Kelly said Holden works very hard to build coalitions and occasionally needs to fly to get there.

"He's the CEO of the state and he's got a message to get out," Kelly said.

The state operates several airplanes out of Jefferson City for use by state agencies. Last year, legislators declined a request for $3 million to replace two twin-engine piston airplanes that are nearly 20 years old. The governor usually flies on a small jet purchased in 1998.

Gov. Mel Carnahan, his son Randy and campaign aide Chris Sifford died in October, 2000 when their twin-engined Cessna crashed en route to a campaign stop in New Madrid.

The plane was owned by Carnahan's campaign.