Govt. Kathy Hochul insisted Wednesday that her use of state aircraft was appropriate, huffing that, “a governor is allowed to go home” in response to a question about The Post’s analysis of more than 140 taxpayer-funded trips — including a September flight to watch her hometeam Buffalo Bills.
“Everything we do is proper use of state aircraft. Everything I do is cleared by ethics and follows state policies that are in place,” Hochul said when The Post asked about the flights at an unrelated press conference in Manhattan Wednesday.
“And at the end of the day, the governor is allowed to go home. Buffalo is my home,” Hochul, who also resides at the Executive Mansion in Albany, groused.
The day before, Hochul told reporters that reaching “voters” was among the important work justifying her flights to the far flung corners of the Empire State ahead of the November election against Republican gubernatorial nominee Rep. Lee Zeldin (R-Suffolk).
“We are using the state plane to allow me to connect with constituents, voters all across the state, as well as citizens. So, our objective is to be a different kind of governor – one that is not locked into Albany or New York City, but there is an entire state out there,” she told reporters.
The comments fueled renewed criticism over her administration’s interpretation of state rules that say taxpayer-funded aircraft, operated by state police, only ought to be used for “bona-fide State purpose.”
“Finally we have a rare – albeit accidental – moment of honesty from Gov. Hochul on her excessive, expensive, election-year air travel. ‘Connecting with voters’ is not the purpose of having state aircraft. Taxpayers shouldn’t be forced to foot the bill so she can crisscross the state on private flights to advance her political career,” Republican Assembly Minority Leader William Barclay said in a statement.
Flights by a state police-operated Beechcraft King Air 350 airplane and a Sikorsky 76D helicopter, respectively, cost between $1,300 and $2,500, according to an aviation expert.
Her approximately 131 taxpayer-funded hours in the sky from August 2021 through March 2022 alone roughly amounts to $170,000 in total costs. Hochul, has previously refunded the state $11,000 after holding campaign events along with official business on trips.
Her penchant for flying has some everyday New Yorkers griping amid historically high fuel prices that reached an average price of $4.66 statewide compared to $3.20 a year ago, according to AAA.
“I’m not sure she knows or cares what the rest of us are dealing with today. I think she’s oblivious,” Joanna Saltos, 51, told the Post Monday while pumping $20 worth of fuel into her Toyota in Queens.
Many of the gubernatorial flights include meetings with government officials, press conferences or other business related to her day job, according to daily schedules from her first seven months in office.
“Governor Hochul works around the clock, visits all 62 counties every year, and travels across the state by car, train, and plane to deliver for New Yorkers because it’s her job. We strictly follow applicable guidance, and all aircraft use is approved by counsel,” Hochul spokeswoman Hazel Crampton-Hays previously told the Post.
But some flights appear particularly geared towards the governor’s personal convenience, records show.
State aircraft flew her to Buffalo after a commercial flight last November from a Democratic junket in Puerto Rico.
Other flights have taken her between her hometown, New York City and Albany to spend the night before she returned to her original location the following morning.
“We’re all struggling to pay our bills and she’s doing frivolous things with the state budget? You damn right I’m mad! C’mon! I roll with the punches but, c’mon! This ain’t right,” Musa Easley, 40, fumed to the Post Monday as he topped off his pickup truck with $90 worth of unleaded in New York City.
The number of taxpayer-funded gubernatorial flights since April remains a mystery because Hochul – who has vowed to make state government more transparent since replacing disgraced ex-Gov. Andrew Cuomo last August – has only released detailed public schedules through the end of March.
But Hochul’s use of state aircraft is comparable to Cuomo, who got guff throughout his three terms in office for flying on the public dime. Past leaders like Republican Gov. George Pataki and Democratic Gov. Mario Cuomo has also faced criticism for their use of state aircraft.
“Unlike Kathy Hochul, as Governor, I would be using state aircraft far less than she does. It’s also extremely important that it’s for an official purpose,” Zeldin – who has been endorsed by the Post’s Editorial Board – previously told The Post.