By Jack Brammer
FRANKFORT — Gov. Steve Beshear will use a state plane to take his family to New Orleans for the NCAA Final Four.
The Kentucky Democratic Party will reimburse the state for use of the plane because Democratic Party activities will be involved on the trip, said Beshear spokeswoman Kerri Richardson.
Richardson did not immediately know what state political party activities will occur in New Orleans or what family members will be going with the governor other than first lady Jane Beshear.
The Beshears used a state plane March 9 to go to the Southeastern Conference basketball tournament in New Orleans and to take a side trip to Ocala, Fla., for Jane Beshear to visit friends.
The Democratic Party said it would reimburse the state for that trip because political party activities were involved, but reporters would have to wait until it filed campaign finance reports to find out the nature of those party activities.
Asked Friday what political party activities will be involved in the governor’s trip to New Orleans this weekend, party spokesman Matt Erwin said he would have to check.
State Republican Party Chairman Steve Robertson said the governor and the Democratic Party should make public a detailed agenda of his political activities in New Orleans this weekend and in early March.
“Does the Kentucky Democratic Party now have an office in New Orleans?” asked Robertson. “All this makes one wonder if they are using political activities as a ruse to not have to have the governor report this as a gift on his income taxes.”
A news release from Beshear’s office Friday said that the NCAA Final Four will begin Saturday night “with an historic matchup between the University of Kentucky and the University of Louisville. This is the first time since 1991 that a single state has sent two schools to the Final Four.”
“It’s a thrilling time to be a basketball fan in the state of Kentucky, because no matter who prevails Saturday night, the championship game will feature a team from Kentucky,” Beshear said.
The news release said state law allows the governor and his family to utilize state aircraft for personal use. However, early in his administration, Beshear instituted a policy regarding use of state aircraft that says the cost of any non-government travel on state aircraft must be repaid to the state.
The governor considers the trip to be non-governmental travel, and the state will be reimbursed accordingly, the release said.
Lt. Gov. Jerry Abramson will join the governor at the Final Four, but he will fly separately on a University of Louisville charter plane, and his travel expenses will not be charged to the state, the release said.
Beshear also used a state plane in April 2011 to take his family to the NCAA Final Four in Houston. The state Democratic Party picked up the $6,105 tab for the flight.
Since Beshear became governor in December 2008, he has made much use of state aircraft for political and non-governmental purposes — but not at state expense. The Democratic Party has reimbursed the state about $100,000 for his trips.
Last year, his re-election campaign paid the state about $6,000 to cover the cost of such flights.