By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily
Sen. Anthony Bouchard, R-Cheyenne, says Wyoming sell its two jets used for transporting state employees, but some officials have pushed back against this idea.
“The State of Wyoming should list its TWO Luxury jets on EBAY instead of raising taxes and pushing toll road,” Bouchard wrote on his Facebook account that also featured a photo of the planes.
However, multiple Wyoming Department of Transportation studies have concluded the planes actually save the state money instead of being more costly.
State aeronautics division administrator Brian Olsen told Cowboy State Daily that although his department doesn’t have an official stance on the jets, the staff finds they are an efficient and effective tool in conducting state business.
“In 2014, a third party conducted an operational study report. That report indicated that the … total cost to operate the two aircraft was $2,645,995 average per year,” Olsen said. “We estimate the current operating costs to be on average between $2 and $2.1 million per year.”
The state owns the aircraft outright, so the only costs are for operations and maintenance.
“WYDOT pays the fixed costs (training/payroll/hangar/etc.) because we own and operate the aircraft and we would be responsible for those costs regardless of usage,” Olsen said. “When an agency uses the aircraft, we charge $1,425 per hour, that rate covers variable (consumable) costs.”
The study Olsen referenced also found the state’s transport aircraft were 14% more efficient per mile than auto/airline travel (based on a $100,000 salary). However, the study didn’t account for lost productivity or travel expenses associated with travel by car, which would also make the aircraft more efficient, he said.
The report also concluded the state’s aircraft were 32% more efficient than fractional aircraft (one that has multiple owners) and 44% more efficient than chartering a similar aircraft.
Gov. Mark Gordon’s spokesman Michael Pearlman pointed Cowboy State Daily to a comment the governor made to the outlet back in 2019, as he holds a similar stance today.
“Governor Gordon supports fiscal responsibility and the judicious use of taxpayer dollars,” Pearlman said at the time. “Several WYDOT studies have determined that owning state aircraft is more cost-efficient than private charters or driving vast distances.”
Pearlman added at the time Gordon advanced a budget proposal including more than $500 million in strategic cuts.
“Selling the state’s aircraft would do little to address the state’s budget shortfall,” Pearlman said.
Rep. Chuck Gray, R-Casper, told Cowboy State Daily on Friday he introduced an amendment earlier this week requiring WYDOT to sell the jets, but it failed.