Flights of Fancy
Senators should reduce use of chartered flights
During these hard economic times, everybody - rich or poor - looks at their spending a little more carefully. We all spend a little less on luxuries and a little more frugally on necessities.
However, our representatives in Washington don't follow the same model.
Senators Chuck Schumer and Kirsten Gillibrand together billed New York taxpayers around $450,000 for chartered flights around the state. Schumer and Gillibrand both made trips from Washington to several upstate cities very rapidly.
Over the year ending Sept. 30, the senators had taxpayers foot the bill for 79 flights - 49 for Schumer and 30 for Gillibrand. Many of the trips occur in one day with the senators quickly covering as much area as possible.
Much of the reason Schumer has argued for the use of chartered flights is because he wouldn't be able to touch every county of New York during the year without them. In fact, according to Politico, Schumer was ranked No. 2 - just behind Texas Sen. John Cornyn - in charter flight use.
Cornyn, it should be noted, has a much larger area of the nation to cover.
Gillibrand is following in those footsteps. According to her staff, being accessible to the citizens is her most pressing concern and often the best way to be available at short notice is to take chartered flights.
We understand that, and we are grateful for the fact that our senators choose to take a proactive stance around the state. But in these trying times everyone needs to tighten their belts.
t might not seem like a great deal of money. After all, New York pulls in about $63 billion in tax revenue over the year, but it's not really about how much more money would be available for other spending.
Symbolically, it would be a big step in regaining the public's confidence that it's government is willing to make sacrifices when needed.
That doesn't necessarily mean that we want either to never take chartered flights again. In one instance, Gillibrand took a chartered flight to tour flood damage on Long Island. When you need to travel in an emergency and have no other option, nobody is going to fault the senator for taking the most expedient form of travel.
However, that doesn't mean that it should be used simply to free up scheduling. Whenever possible, senators should take the option of using commercial flights. Considering charter flights cost over $600 an hour plus fuel, and charge $50 dollars per hour of waiting, flying commercial would be significantly less expensive.
Safety, although a concern, is not an issue. Airports and planes are now safer than they've ever been. Even taking a bodyguard along, in order to ensure the safety of the senator, would cost less than a chartered flight.
Being elected to government comes with an insane workload. We understand that it is much easier to schedule if you have an easy form of travel to all ends of New York. Yet just as it's important to be available, it's equally important to be a responsible steward of taxpayer dollars.
With that in mind, we ask our senators to cut down on their use of chartered flights and tighten their belts just like their constituents have been doing for the past few years.
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