Florida Gov. DeSantis travel expenses jump 50% as he prepares to begin next term

Political analyst: ‘He has made this part of his daily schedule’

ORLANDO, Fla. – As Gov. Ron DeSantis prepares to begin another term in office as Florida’s governor, his travel spending has increased more than 50%, according to a News 6 investigation.

“He has made this part of his almost daily schedule,” said News 6 political analyst Dr. Jim Clark, a history professor at the University of Central Florida. “He pops up someplace, often without any real advance notice. He has talked about a litany of issues from parental control in schools to budgeting -- all kinds of things, and it has been extremely effective, as we saw in the election.”

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How much is being spent?

News 6 searched the governor’s schedules, which are distributed via e-mail at the end of each day, during a time span after the height of the COVID-19 pandemic and before Hurricane Ian hit the state in September.

According to those schedules, between July 2021 and June 2022, the governor traveled for 139 press conferences, 24 public appearances and 10 events throughout the state.

News 6 investigated and according to the Report of Transportation and Protective Services compiled each year by the Florida Department of Law Enforcement, taxpayers paid $1.2 million in operational costs to transport the governor during that time period – an increase of 52% over the prior year.

That jump in cost came as the price of jet fuel rose 103%, according to the U.S. Bureau of Transportation Statistics.

Taxpayers also paid $1.2 million in financing for the governor’s Cessna Citation Latitude jet, which was purchased in 2019, according to FDLE.

They also paid $2.4 million for the governor’s security detail during those trips, according to the report, which was a 30% increase from the prior year.

Where is the governor traveling to?

According to his daily schedule, DeSantis traveled to approximately 99 cities between July 2021 and June 2022.

Most of his travel occurred inside Florida with occasional trips outside the state, such as Washington, D.C., and Indianapolis.

The governor’s plane is blocked by most flight tracking websites, and the Federal Aviation Administration told News 6 there is no historical data of flights that could be provided when requested via the Freedom of Information Act.

An independent website, ADS-B Exchange, which tracks all aircraft flying over the country, does track the governor’s plane.

According to its historical data, part of the governor’s travel aboard his state-issued jet included a trip to Del Rio, Texas, in July 2021, shortly after he deployed Florida state law enforcement to assist in security efforts along the Mexico border.

Flight tracker ADS-B Exchange shows Gov. RonDeSantis' jet made a trip to Del Rio, Texas, in July of 2021. (Source ADS-B Exchange) (Copyright 2022 by WKMG ClickOrlando - All rights reserved.)

But when it came to campaigning, the same online flight tracker showed the governor did not use his official plane to travel to any of the approximately 15 out-of-state campaign and fundraising trips he has made over the last 18 months.

However, the governor’s security detail did accompany him on those trips.

An FDLE spokesperson said the agency does not calculate costs per event, so there was no way to find out how much was spent to protect him on those specific trips.

News 6 asked the governor’s office about the increase in travel spending.

Deputy Press Secretary Jeremy Redfern responded:

“The governor’s travel is to conduct the state’s business – including meeting with and hearing from Floridians as he was elected to do. It wouldn’t be right to only interact with Floridians residing in or traveling to Tallahassee, just as it wouldn’t be appropriate to make himself available to only the Tallahassee media market.

Florida is more than 800 miles long, from Pensacola to Key West, and almost 400 miles wide from Jacksonville to Pensacola. Thus, travel, including by state aircraft, is a necessary office function. The governor has visited all 67 counties since his inauguration in 2019 to interact with as many Floridians as possible.

As for the rise in costs, this is just another result of the Biden Administration’s inflationary energy policy. In fact, according to the US Energy Information Administration, the price of jet fuel increased 118% during the timeframe you mentioned (Jul 21 – Jun 22).

Reducing official travel is not the solution to Biden’s gas price spike, and it wouldn’t make a meaningful difference. What makes a significant difference is precisely what Governor Ron DeSantis is doing to aid Floridians through these inflated gas prices, including:

  • Supporting and signing a record number of tax holidays – over $1.24 billion in total anticipated savings, including $200 million in gas tax savings.
  • Maintaining a fiscally conservative and responsible approach to state budgeting and spending, coupled with a mindfully low tax burden, which has helped us produce the largest budget surplus in the state’s history.

Clark said DeSantis may be starting a new trend.

“Governors all over the country are learning from DeSantis that you have to be constantly campaigning to keep your profile up there,” he said. “I think this is going to become a way of life in Florida.”

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About the Author:

Erik Sandoval joined the News 6 team as a reporter in May 2013 and became an Investigator in 2020. During his time at News 6, Erik has covered several major stories, including the 2016 Presidential campaign. He was also one of the first reporters live on the air at the Pulse Nightclub shooting.