eBay: Cars, boats and, just maybe, Miss.’s jet

By SHELIA BYRD The Associated Press JACKSON – Surfers on eBay may soon see a new offering on the auction block — a clean, one-owner with plenty of power but a lofty price tag. Citing the economic tailspin, the Mississippi House has voted to sell an eight-seat state jet normally used to haul Gov. Haley Barbour and other state officials around the country. The bill provides that the jet — valued at $3.7 million — could be sold by competitive bids, public auction or on eBay. House Appropriations Chairman Johnny Stringer said he was inspired by Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin, the unsuccessful Republican vice presidential nominee, who would energize campaign crowds by telling them how she put her state’s plane on eBay, although no one bid on it. “What put the idea in my head was Sarah Palin, Sarah Palin, a true conservative,” said Stringer, a Democrat from Montrose. The Cessna Citation jet was acquired through a lease-purchase agreement in 2004. Stringer said the state owes $500,000 on the jet. “We can probably get more than $3.7 million for this plane just advertising Haley Barbour flew on it,” Stringer said. Barbour spokesman Dan Turner declined comment on Thursday. Stringer said selling the jet would be another source of revenue for Mississippi, which has had to make budget cuts amid the national recession. If the jet is sold, the governor and other state officials would still have three other taxpayer-funded planes to use. Rep. Greg Snowden, R-Meridian, said lawmakers should wait to see what a stimulus package pending in Congress will yield for the state before selling off the plane. “Isn’t this a little premature? I keep hearing we’re going to get all this money from Washington,” Snowden said. Barbour has cut state agency budgets twice since November. The governor said revenue collections could be as much as $310 million below estimates by June 30. Lawmakers are in session trying to draft a spending plan for the fiscal year that begins July 1. They’re looking at several ways to stretch dollars. Stringer said plans include combining an arts school in Brookhaven with a math and science school in Columbus and cutting some mental health facilities. “I think everybody needs to give up a little something,” Stringer said. Rep. John Moore, R-Brandon, tried to amend the bill to put all state planes on the auction block. “Let’s cut all the flights down,” Moore said before members voted against his proposal. *** The bill is House Bill 1065.

The Associated Press