Gov. Doug Ducey was unable to reverse the Arizona Department of Transportation’s purchase of a new plane, but is now looking to see where he can pare down the rest of the state’s air fleet.
Ducey is exploring the possibility of selling some of the aircraft owned by state agencies, and wants to consolidate the rest of the fleet so the state’s planes are available to all agencies, according to spokesman Daniel Scarpinato. The Governor’s Office has not yet determined how much money it might save through the plan.
The state owns 10 planes – four at the Department of Public Safety, four at the Game and Fish Department and two at ADOT, including the one purchased last year. By reducing that fleet, Scarpinato said the state will save money on maintenance and storage costs. And consolidation will eliminate the need for other agencies, such as the Arizona State Forestry Division, to occasionally lease planes.
“Right now, you have planes that are sitting and not being utilized while we may be out paying for another vehicle,” Scarpinato said. “We want less planes overall. So … we’re figuring out what’s most cost-effective, given what we have in the fleet right now.”
Ducey’s interest in the state’s planes began in January when he learned of ADOT’s purchase of a second plane at a cost of about $6 million, which includes about $1.5 million for a mapping system. By the time Ducey learned of the purchase after his inauguration, Scarpinato said, it was too late to reverse the decision.
While Ducey contemplates the sale of some state planes, Scarpinato said the governor hasn’t ruled out selling the new aircraft, “although the impression is that that is going to come at a big, big loss financially to the state.” He said the Governor’s Office is still reviewing the possibility.
Revelations about ADOT’s new plane purchase emerged as the state faced a deficit of about $680 million for fiscal year 2016 and about $132 million for the current fiscal year. The Ninth Floor has said Ducey was unaware of ADOT’s purchase until Channel 3 news reported it in late January.
“I think our preference would have been … not to have this new plane in state possession. But if we have it, which at this point there’s nothing we can do about that, we want to figure out, is there a way to get rid of some of these other planes,” Scarpinato said.
Scott Smith, who served as chief of staff to former Gov. Jan Brewer, said the Brewer administration was also unaware that ADOT purchased a new plane until the Channel 3 story, at which point the former governor had already left office. Had she learned of ADOT’s plan, Smith said, Brewer would have stopped it.
Smith said Ducey could have gotten stuck with yet another new plane had Brewer not halted that purchase. He said Brewer learned of plans by DPS to buy a new plane a few months before she left office.
“Governor Brewer did not approve the purchase of a new plane, and in fact halted that when she learned about it at DPS,” Smith said.i