Gov. Pataki Racking Up Air Miles

ASSOCIATED PRESS

Gov. George Pataki, who during his successful 1994 campaign criticized incumbent Mario Cuomo for extensive use of the state's executive air fleet, has used it almost 700 days since then.

A review of state records by the Associated Press found that in his more than six years in office, Pataki, a Republican, ordered up the state's airplanes or jet helicopters on at least 687 different days.

That included 1,231 flights across New York and elsewhere. The records ran from Jan. 1, 1995, through April 30 of this year.

Still, Pataki has used state aircraft with less frequency than Cuomo did during 1994, when the Democrat flew on 189 days.

Facing a GOP lawsuit the next year, Cuomo paid the state more than $29,000 for more than 100 flights deemed political or personal.

Pataki spokesman Michael McKeon said the governor's criticisms of Cuomo were based on the purpose of the flights. "What the governor didn't like was the rampant abuse by the Cuomo administration of the air fleet for family travel and for blatantly political travel," he said.

Pataki defended his use of state aircraft during a recent stop at the Buffalo Bills' training camp near Rochester. "I think that's the right thing to do as governor," he said. "You can sit in an ivory tower behind a desk, but I think it's far more important to get out to meet people, listen to people, make the case for New York."

Most of Pataki's flights were short hops from his home to either New York City or Albany. There were also trips across New York for various functions, trips to Washington, and flights to the east end of Long Island, a favorite Pataki vacation spot.

Almost all were taxpayer-financed. Pataki officials were unable to provide cost figures. However, the average hourly cost of the flights is around $2,000.

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