LINCOLN — A longtime pilot, State Sen. Bob Krist changed his flight plan Thursday, saying he will introduce a bill to buy a new state plane after all.
“I decided it was time to step up to the plate and show some leadership,” said Krist, a private pilot who used to fly in the military. “It is in the best interest of taxpayers to do this.”
Previously, Krist said he would propose the $3.5 million purchase only if requested by Gov. Dave Heineman, primary user of the plane.
Last year, Heineman asked lawmakers to buy a 12-year-old plane owned by the University of Nebraska Foundation, but they balked, questioning whether it was overpriced and whether it would make more sense to buy new.
Last month, the governor slammed the Legislature for “playing politics” with safety by conducting a $3,800 study and failing to act on the report, which recommended buying a new plane.
Krist initially said it was up to the governorl. But at a press conference Thursday, Krist said he would introduce the measure next week.
The Legislature's study recommended the purchase of a new five-passenger Beechcraft King Air C90GTx.
It is estimated to cost $3.3 million to $3.5 million, Krist said, but some of the cost would be offset by the sale of the governor's current plane, a 32-year-old Piper Cheyenne.
The new plane would also have a five-year warranty, better safety equipment and a lower cost of operation.
Krist and Fullerton Sen. Annette Dubas defended the Legislature's rejection of the governor's initial plan. The study, by a company that specializes in such analyses, said the foundation's $2.1 million used plane was overpriced by about $200,000. Krist said that plane has already required $250,000 worth of propeller work, which means the study has already saved nearly $500,000.
Krist said that leasing a plane instead of buying will probably be raised during floor debate.
But he said that buying a plane would be better because the pilots would be known and the plane immediately available.
Heineman declined to comment.
A new state report indicated that the governor has flown 7,966 miles on the Cheyenne, which also logged 3,115 miles for other agencies and for maintenance trips.