Proposal for New Airplane for Governor Gets 1st Around Approval

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LINCOLN, Neb. -- A proposal to buy a new airplane for Nebraska's governor and other state officials has won first-round approval in the Legislature.

Lawmakers advanced the measure on Thursday with a 31-3 vote.

A legislative consultant has recommended buying a new twin-engine King Air model that can carry five passengers and two pilots. It would cost as much as $3.8 million, though money from other aircraft sales would likely reduce that cost. The plane would replace the state's current, 1982 Piper Cheyenne aircraft.

The bill's sponsor, Sen. Bob Krist of Omaha, says buying a new plane instead of leasing or chartering is more cost-efficient over the long term.

"We've just come light-years with this airplane in terms of safety and maintenance. This new airplane is a much better airplane," said Krist.

Krist says a new plane would have better safety features, and would retain more of its value after its recommended 20-year lifespan has expired.

"I think we have to make sure that it's good airplane, a safe airplane and that we spend the money to make sure that our people are safe," said Senator John Harms.

Other senators question how much this plane will cost years down the road.

"I'd be interested to see when all this shakes down as far as costs because depreciation and all these things are figured in there and noticed. It's going to cost more money than we think," said Sen. Norm Wallman.

Gov. Dave Heineman has said the state needs a plane so officials can travel quickly and safely for state business.