Saying he opposed giving Governor Keating a state plane because he feared the Governor would abuse the privilege, a state legislator is expressing disappointment about revelations that Keating has billed the taxpayers for flight expenses stemming from travel to and from partisan political events.
"I hate to say 'I told you so,' but these are the same concerns I raised when Governor Keating started trying to finagle his own airplane," said Senator Kevin Easley, who as a member of the legislative bond oversight commission refused to vote for the Governor's plane deal.
"I figured he was going to turn the state plane into his own little campaign shuttle to take him from one partisan political event to another, and lo and behold, that's just what has happened. What it amounts to is Governor Keating using taxpayer dollars to advance his own partisan political agenda.
"My phone has been ringing off the wall this morning with calls from taxpayers who are pretty upset about the Governor's frequent flying. The taxpayers are the big losers in this fiasco."
News reports published today indicated that Keating has used the state plane on some 70 occasions to fly to campaign events without reimbursing the state. Governor Keating has claimed taxpayers should fund the trips because he mixes in some "official" business with each campaign swing.
Senator Easley disagrees.
"Taxpayers shouldn't be picking up the tab for a Keating campaign swing just because he drops by the local chamber of commerce office for a few minutes on his way to a political fund raiser. It's pretty obvious that he schedules the political events first and then trumps up some bogus excuse to justify sticking taxpayers with the bill for a trip that is nothing more than a partisan campaign junket.
"It's an elaborate scheme to force taxpayers to fund Governor Keating's campaign activities. I don't think taxpayers are going to stand for this and they shouldn't have to," said Senator Easley.
The Broken Arrow legislator is calling for Governor Keating to immediately reimburse taxpayers for any and all plane trips that involved political activity.
"Governor Keating has said time and time again that public officials should avoid even the appearance of impropriety and that he has 'zero tolerance' for any activity that hints of unethical conduct.
"I think he should live up to his own standard and do the right thing. Governor, give taxpayers their money back.
"At a time when we're stressing honesty in government, this is the kind of thing that undermines public confidence in all officials."