University System Exempted From Bill To Manage Use Of State Aircraft

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One of the big stories we here at SAB worked long and hard on over the last couple of years is use of the state’s aircraft. Specifically, use of aircraft owned by the university system. At a time when the university system, including North Dakota State University, was crying the blues over loss of funding they were spending thousands of dollars per flight to shuttle officials (including anti-Sioux nickname activists) back and forth to the 2011 legislative session to testify, often asking for more money.

It is the very pinnacle of hypocrisy to fly in a private airplane to tell legislators you’re underfunded, when driving would be a fraction of the cost.

North Dakota State University was by far the worst offender, spending 400% of the going market rate for completely unnecessary air travel, but that figure only came to light after the legislature took up a study into the use of state aircraft. But even there, the university system couldn’t deal honestly with our elected officials, trying to claim that their airplane was exempt from the study.

That turned out not to be the case (we caught them in the act), and after months of heat from the legislature NDSU decided to put their airplane up for sale (no word on whether or not they’ve actually sold it).

I was happy to learn, heading into this legislative session, that there would be a bill creating a management system for use of the state’s airplanes. Such a system would go a long way toward preventing the sort of abuse of the planes seen in the university system, except much to my chagrin I see that the bill actually exempts the university system from the management system.

You can read HB1033 here, which specifically excludes from the management system “Entities under the control of the state board of higher education.”

Much of the impetus for this legislation was abuse of state aircraft by the university system, yet the legislation exempts the university system.

Outside of the flight school at the University of North Dakota, I can’t imagine a single good reason why any of the state’s universities should have their own airplanes. University officials who need to travel by air can either fly commercial, like the rest of us plebes, or they can charter a plane if such an extravagance is warranted.

But if the university system is to own airplanes, their use should be under the oversight of every other aircraft owned by the state.

Rob Port is the editor of SayAnythingBlog.com. In 2011 he was a finalist for the Watch Dog of the Year from the Sam Adams Alliance and winner of the Americans For Prosperity Award for Online Excellence. In 2013 the Washington Post named SAB one of the nation's top state-based political blogs, and named Rob one of the state's best political reporters. He writes a weekly column for several North Dakota newspapers, and also serves as a policy fellow for the North Dakota Policy Council.

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