JEFFERSON CITY, MO (KMOX) - Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon is again coming under fire for his frequent use of a taxpayer-funded airplane.
The Jefferson City News Tribune reports Gov. Nixon was the most frequent flier of the 125 flights the Missouri Highway Patrol flew last year.
Records for 2012 show Nixon and members of his administration used the patrol’s airplane 104 times, or 83 percent of all flights.
“Governors for several administrations have argued that ‘I’m the governor of the whole state, there are people around the state who want to see me, who want to hear from me directly, who want to ask me questions and in order to do that, I have to go where they are,’” News Tribune reporter Bob Watson said. “Ultimately, it’s up to the governor and his administration whether he takes private planes that are funded by campaign funds or other donations or he flies on the taxpayer dime.”
Watson says there is no indication any of the flights were for leisure trips but some lawmakers have criticized Nixon for his frequent flying which forced the Highway Patrol to spend $5.6 million to buy a second state airplane for law enforcement work that had been preempted by Nixon’s busy flight schedule.
“You’re just going to have some people concerned that maybe the governor should stay in Jefferson City more or should drive more than fly and I suspect you’ll hear more of that in the coming months,” Watson added.
The governor’s plane costs about $650 an hour to operate, meaning Nixon’s 173 hours of flight time in 2012 cost taxpayers $112,450.
The governor has defended the flights as a practical necessity to reach all parts of the state.