- The Washington Times - Monday, April 29, 2002

ANNAPOLIS A last-minute request a year ago by Gov. Parris N. Glendening for $4.9 million to buy a new turboprop plane for state police continues to spark expressions of outrage from Republican lawmakers.
Republican senators and delegates scoffed at claims that the plane would be used primarily to extradite prisoners from other states.
They accused the administration of squandering tax money so the governor and Lt. Gov. Kathleen Kennedy Townsend could fly around the country in a luxury aircraft more suited to executives of major corporations.
Logs obtained from state police showed that Mr. Glendening made four flights in the King Air 350 during the first 3 months after the plane was put into service in late October. He has made at least two flights since then, said Mike Morrill, his communications director.
Mrs. Townsend's name did not appear on the logs and aides said she had not been on the plane.
The logs showed Mr. Glendening used the new plane once for an in-state trip. Trips also included three flights to Florida for appearances at Smart Growth events and to watch the University of Maryland football team play in the Orange Bowl. Mr. Glendening also flew April 1 to Atlanta to watch the Terrapins win the national basketball title.
Delegate James Ports, the House Republican whip from Baltimore County, said Republicans remained convinced that buying the plane was a waste of tax funds.
"It would be cheaper to fly commercial flights," he said.
Mr. Morrill said Mr. Glendening uses scheduled airline service on most of his out-of-state trips, but that service isn't always available. In the case of the NCAA tournament, the governor waited until Maryland reached the championship game before deciding to go to Atlanta. By then, it was impossible to get tickets on commercial flights, he said.
House Minority Leader Alfred Redmer, Baltimore County Republican, said there may be times when the governor legitimately can use the state airplane.
"But to ferry him to a football game or a basketball game, I personally consider that an inappropriate use of any state-owned vehicle," he said.
Mr. Morrill argued that governors of states are expected to be present when sports teams are playing in major national events such as the Orange Bowl or the basketball championship game.
The logs also showed that by mid-February nine flights on the twin-engine plane were made to cities as far away as Olympia, Wash., to return 17 prisoners extradited from other states.
"The plane has been used exactly as we said it would," Mr. Morrill said. "On infrequent occasions, it is used by the governor, but it is predominantly used by state police for state police purposes."
The plane became an issue last April when Mr. Glendening sent down a supplemental budget request 10 days before the session ended that included $450,000 for the first payment on the King Air 350 manufactured by Raytheon Co.
Republicans quickly dubbed it "the governor's plane" and accused Mr. Glendening of trying to sneak it through the legislature by waiting until the closing days of the session to ask for the money.
Mr. Morrill said at the time that state police had hoped to make it through one more year with a smaller King Air C-90, but decided after the original budget was prepared that the plane, then 21 years old, was so unreliable that it had to be replaced.
Delegate Richard LaVay Montgomery Republican, a licensed pilot, said at the time that the governor's claim was nonsense and that "a well-maintained, 20-year-old plane is virtually brand-new."
The arguments over the age and trustworthiness of the plane haven't lessened over the past year.
"[Twenty-two years] is not old," Delegate Robert Flanagan, Howard Republican, said last week in an interview. "It's just old by the standards of someone who wants executive-class luxury."
But Mr. Morrill said the 22-year-old plane, the state's only fixed-wing aircraft besides a single-engine Cessna, had been out of service for five months at the time of the budget request.
The state still owns the older plane, but it is used only as a backup if another plane is out of service for maintenance, said Maj. Don Lewis, head of the state police aviation division.
Maj. Lewis said the new plane is much more useful for returning prisoners from other states because it has a greater range and can carry more passengers eight compared with four for the older plane.
Republicans argue the state could save money by making more use of commercial flights, leasing planes when a commercial flight is not available or even using corporate planes.
"This airplane is a complete waste of money, and a perfect example of the excesses of the Glendening-Townsend administration," Mr. Flanagan said.
Mr. Morrill said Maryland has a small fixed-wing air fleet compared with many other states.
"It's just politics," Mr. Morrill said. "When the Republican governor of Texas had a private jet, you didn't hear Republicans complaining about that."

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