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Cagle says DOT should auction jet

POSTED: March 31, 2009 4:05 p.m.

ATLANTA — Lt. Gov. Casey Cagle said Tuesday that Georgia should put one of its airplanes on the auction block, arguing the sale would bring in more than $1 million to help offset state budget woes.

Cagle said the 1984 Cessna Citation jet is the least active in the state Department of Transportation's seven-plane fleet and is "rarely used."

"If this is the case considering our state is in need to cut expenses, please move forward in selling this plane," Cagle wrote to state Transportation Board Chairman Bill Kuhlke in a letter obtained by The Associated Press.

The state Senate's budget proposal for the fiscal year that begins July 1 includes $1.5 million from the sale of the aircraft. It's a small fraction of the roughly $1.6 billion that legislators had to cut from the spending plan to make up for plummeting tax collections.

But Cagle says every little bit helps.

"During these times our state can't afford private jet spending on a minivan budget," he said.

Cagle is seeking the Republican nomination for governor in 2010 when Sonny Perdue's second term expires. He bills himself as a champion of cutting wasteful government spending.

Georgia would hardly be the first state to slap a "For Sale" sign on a government jet. Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin bragged on the vice presidential campaign trail that she put her state's Westwind Two jet up for sale on eBay. But the plane didn't sell on the online auction site. It was eventually purchased in 2007 by an Alaska businessman for $2.1 million — less than the $2.5 million the state was seeking.

A number of states have been hawking goods online, from office furniture to cars, to shore up their sagging budgets.

But aviation industry experts said the recession makes it a bad time to try to unload a pricey plane.

Businesses that ordinarily are the biggest consumers of private planes have cut back, said Mark Kiefer, a Boston-based aviation consultant.

Some don't have the cash. And others worry it could send a bad signal in austere times.

Citigroup faced a firestorm of criticism when the banking giant revealed earlier this year that it was planning to take delivery of a corporate jet after accepting billions of dollars in federal bailout money. The company canceled plans to purchase the plane under pressure from President Barack Obama.

"There has been such a focus in the press and politically on excesses of spending," Kiefer said. "This is not a great time to sell the state's aircraft, from a price point of view."

Georgia DOT officials said the Cessna business jet that Cagle wants to sell is used most commonly used to shuttle Georgia officials to out-of-state trips. It seats five people and costs about $970 an hour to operate.

The state's other aircraft include five Beechcraft King Air planes and a single-engine Cessna 210.

There was no immediate response to Kuhlke or the state DOT to Cagle's proposal.

A spokesman for Gov. Sonny Perdue also had no immediate comment.



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