How will Florida’s next gover­nor get around the state?

South Florida Sun-Sentinel Palm Beach (Sunday) - - LOCAL - By Jim Turner News Ser­vice of Florida

“Ul­ti­mately, we think it’s an im­por­tant tool for the gover­nor, given the fact that we’re a very, very large state.”

Florida lead­ers will soon have to de­ter­mine how ex­actly the new gover­nor and Cabi­net mem­bers will be able to travel the state after Gov. Rick Scott, who uses a pri­vate jet, leaves of­fice.

But so far, the cam­paigns of Repub­li­can Ron DeSan­tis and Demo­crat An­drew Gil­lum have not out­lined how the win­ner of Tues­day’s gu­ber­na­to­rial elec­tion would travel when no longer driv­ing and fly­ing on the dol­lars of po­lit­i­cal con­trib­u­tors.

DeSan­tis’ cam­paign said its fo­cus right now is get­ting the for­mer Repub­li­can con­gress­man elected.

“All of that is pre­ma­ture,” Stephen Law­son, a DeSan­tis spokesman, said in an email Wed­nes­day. “The only thing we’re fo­cused on is work­ing hard to­wards a big win on Novem­ber 6th.”

But for­mer Gov. Bob Martinez said plans such as trans­porta­tion are among the is­sues the next gover­nor, who­ever it may be, needs to have some­one work­ing on now

Martinez, who ap­peared Wed­nes­day in Tal­la­has­see at a Florida TaxWatch event fo­cused on help­ing the next gover­nor tran­si­tion into of­fice, gave his sup­port to the state again own­ing air­craft for statewide of­fi­cials.

“I know it may be con­tro­ver­sial in the minds of peo­ple, but when you’re up here al­most in Ge­or­gia and you’ve got go down to Mi­ami, you’re look­ing at al­most 700, 800 miles, you’re just not go­ing to drive it,” Martinez said. “It’s just not go­ing to hap­pen.”

The quick­est drive from Tal­la­has­see to Mi­ami is just un­der 500 miles.

Scott made the state’s own­er­ship of a pair of air­planes and em­ploy­ment of flight crews a cam­paign is­sue when he first ran for of­fice in 2010 and later un­loaded the planes.

The cost to fly the state planes was more than $3,000 an hour, or about $2.4 mil­lion a year. The De­part­ment of Man­age­ment Ser­vices ac­cepted a bid for $1.9 mil­lion for a state jet and $1.8 mil­lion for a prop plane. The gover­nor also or­dered the agency to lay off 11 peo­ple who worked in the state air pool.

The changes were pos­si­ble be­cause the mul­ti­mil­lion­aire Scott’s wealth al­lowed him to use his per­sonal air­craft.

Own­ing a plane doesn’t ap­pear an op­tion for DeSan­tis, who had a net worth of $310,971 as of Dec. 31, or Do­minic Cal­abro, TaxWatch Pres­i­dent and CEO Gil­lum, the Tal­la­has­see mayor who had a net worth of $334,200 as of June 18.

TaxWatch Pres­i­dent and CEO Do­minic Cal­abro said that even though state own­er­ship of air­craft had a cost to tax­pay­ers, the planes served a nec­es­sary func­tion of safety and ac­cess.

“Ul­ti­mately, we think it’s an im­por­tant tool for the gover­nor, given the fact that we’re a very, very large state,” Cal­abro said. “Part of it is bring­ing the ex­ec­u­tive branch and the Cabi­net and the Se­nate pres­i­dent and [House] speaker to the en­tire peo­ple of Florida.”

Cal­abro said the state should have two or maybe three air­craft for state lead­ers, noth­ing “crazy” so that state univer­sity foot­ball coaches are us­ing them.

In­com­ing House Speaker Jose Oliva, R-Mi­ami Lakes, didn’t com­mit to any new ve­hi­cles but said Wed­nes­day he will work with the new gover­nor on trans­porta­tion.

“The Leg­is­la­ture will work with the new gover­nor to en­sure he is able to get around our state at the best value for tax­pay­ers,” Oliva said in a state­ment.

Martinez said it’s im­por­tant for the gover­nor, Cabi­net mem­bers and other state of­fi­cials to have con­tact with all res­i­dents.

He noted that while he was in of­fice, be­fore the com­mon use of cell phones, he wouldn’t ac­cept speak­ing en­gage­ments if they were more than 100 miles out­side of Tal­la­has­see.

“You just can’t af­ford it to spend half a day go­ing to Tampa to give a speech at lunchtime.” Martinez said.

Martinez said an of­fer he didn’t take while gover­nor was al­low­ing the Repub­li­can Party of Florida to pay for char­ter flights.

“The ques­tion is, who is do­nat­ing the money?” Martinez said. “There would be a con­stant state of con­tro­versy over who is giv­ing money to the Repub­li­can Party so I could fly down to Mi­ami to give a speech. So that doesn’t work.”

CHRIS O'MEARA/AP

The cam­paigns of Repub­li­can Ron DeSan­tis and Demo­crat An­drew Gil­lum have not out­lined how the win­ner of Tues­day’s gu­ber­na­to­rial elec­tion would travel when no longer driv­ing and fly­ing on the dol­lars of po­lit­i­cal con­trib­u­tors.

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