Monday, April 18, 2011

Legislators Confront the Horror of Life Without Free Cars

As we noted on Friday, a state-level committee in charge of compensation and perks for legislators has moved to cut the taxpayer-paid vehicles these lawmakers have enjoyed for years. The car perk has included a free vehicle, as well as gas, maintenance, and insurance. Now, legislators will get an allowance of $300 per month, saving the state over $2 million in the coming years.

You mean I might have to pay for this myself?
Predictably, they've already started whining about it. The Santa Rosa Press touches base with its Democratic State Senator, Noreen Evans, after she started complaining last Thursday. Because Evans' district is large and rural, she claims the allowance will amount to be reimbursed 15 cents per mile. Which is kind of funny: aren't California Democrats trying to get us to spend less time in our cars anyway? And we also have this story in the Sacramento Bee: Legislators are now worried that they may end up losing money on their free cars when they sell them at year's end, even though none of the cars is older than a 2004 Prius and most are hybrids, which are in high demand these days. The spokesman for Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg had this to say, "We'll have to go out into the market and try to find a way to get a return on our investment. We don't know right now what we're going to do." (No, we're not making that up.) Assembly Speaker John Perez was also grumbling; his spokeswoman made it clear that the Assembly is keeping its options open with regard to challenging the Committee or finding another way to keep cars at taxpayer expense.

We'll see whether the free cars are ultimately saved or not. But in the meantime, the Legislature might want to pay attention to something else the Committee is cooking up: taxing lawmakers' per diem allowances, and revoking per diems on days when legislators miss sessions at the Capitol.


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