August 23, 2014

Legislature rejects plane purchase, calls for study

State lawmakers have rejected a proposal to pay $2.2 million to buy a 2001 King Air airplane from the University of Nebraska Foundation, opting instead to commission a study of its air transportation needs.

Though it makes up only a small portion of the $7.8 billion state budget for the next two years, the purchase has become a controversial issue at the Capitol nearly from the moment Gov. Dave Heineman proposed the purchase.

The state had leased the plane from the Foundation.

Debate on the proposal late last night blocked final consideration of the final budget bill. Lawmakers this morning reconvened and reconsidered an amendment proposed by Sen. Annette Dubas of Fullerton. The amendment scuttled buying the plane and, instead, directed a study to be made as to how best to meet the transportation needs of the governor and state officials attempting to reach western Nebraska in a timely fashion.

Dubas’ amendment failed last night, primarily because several senators abstained from voting and it fell four votes short of passage. Upon reconsideration, the amendment passed 26-to-14.

The vote cleared the way for preliminary approval of the budget. It will return to the legislature again and will be subject to further amendment. Once the budget bills clear a second round, they will be ready for final consideration before moving on to the governor.