Too Much Government – The Executive Helicopter

We hear a lot of hollering from Democrats about the General Assembly encroaching on the powers of Governor Cooper. But, often, this debate touches on a fundamental difference between Republicans and Democrats: Which is better, more government or less government?

The Program Evaluation Division of the General Assembly is the closest thing we have in Raleigh to the Fed’s General Accounting Office. Its studies of various facets of state government tells us when something is amiss.

Back in 2010, PED recommended eliminating 25 state-owned aircraft to reduce the $10.8 million that taxpayers were spending on operations – including 89 people – because most of the aircraft were grossly underutilized.

When it was published, that PED report got some attention but, after two years passed, state government had managed to eliminate only 19 of the aircraft.

Now if Rolls Royce made a helicopter it would look like the state’s Sikorsky S-76C executive helicopter. And who wants to sell their Rolls Royce? The Sikorsky helicopter – for which taxpayers paid $6.8 million and which costs $8,553 per hour to operate – was one of the aircraft the state kept.

How much was the state using its Rolls Royce? It used it for 8 days of flight time in a year – for a cost of $564,000. But that’s not the only cost. A helicopter, like your car, is a depreciating asset. It loses value ever year. Add in opportunity costs (what else could we do with the money) and that’s another $200,000 a year.

Four years after the PED report in 2014, the General Assembly told then Governor McCrory: Sell the ‘Rolls’. They posted it on eBay and turned down an offer for $1.5 million.

Now, at last, after eight years of bureaucratic dithering, the state finally sold the helicopter for $1.75 million. But in the meantime, they spent $1.4 million to maintain it. Taxpayers netted $350,000 now versus the $1.5 million on the table four years earlier.

Liberals want more government. Conservatives want less government. And when it comes to state helicopters, conservatives seem to have a point.

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