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State car auctions cause a stir in Sacramento

April 14, 2010 6:44:52 PM PDT
California has auctioned off hundreds of vehicles in an effort to cut costs. But it's now gone on a new car buying spree.

In a continued effort to save the cash-strapped state money and even make some money, the California Department of General Services auctioned off 400 more state vehicles.

That's more than 3,300 cars in less than a year now -- off the books for gas and maintenance costs.

"We've cut about 18 percent of our fleet. We've cut about 67 percent of our vehicle purchases as a result of the governor's order. So a lot of savings for state government," Eric Lamoureux from the Department of General Services said.

But just as the state made gains, the Legislature spent $500,000 for new cars and 18 lawmakers got 2009 or 2010 models.

Taxpayer groups are outraged over the spending when ordinary people are still struggling in this recession.

"This is a Legislature that is the highest paid in America. This continues to show how they're disconnected from the rest of the state," Jon Coupal from the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association said.

The Citizens Compensation Commission found the most expensive new vehicle in the Assembly is being driven by Democrat, Pedro Nava, D-Santa Barbara, who chose to drive a Toyota Highlander Hybrid, which cost more than $48,000.

In the Senate, Republican Dave Cogdill, R-Fresno, whose district spans six counties, is driving in a Chevrolet Silverado pickup, which cost nearly $39,000.

Cars, along with a gas card, are part of the perks enjoyed by state lawmakers.

Senate President Darrell Steinberg, D-Sacramento, says in many instances the vehicles with over 100,000 miles were too expensive to maintain. After selling the older cars and buying new ones, the cost to taxpayers was only $50,000 on the Senate side.

"The state did not just go out and buy a new bunch of cars, it replaced some of the older cars and sold the cars. So there was a very small cost to the state in just essentially keeping the fleet."

Lawmakers that over their monthly car allowance, they pay the difference out of their pocket. Analyses show it's actually more expensive for taxpayers to reimburse lawmakers for their travel and that it's cheaper for the state to buy the vehicle and lease the car to lawmakers.


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