WatchSonoma Watch

Impounding legislators’ cars

As a credit union loan officer, my niece occasionally has the sad duty of collecting keys from borrowers who turn in their cars because they can’t keep up with the payments. A similar scene is unfolding in Sacramento this week – except that it’s a lot harder to have any sympathy for the people turning in their cars. They’re state legislators, and they haven’t been picking up the car payments. You have.

A lease car has been a unique perquisite for California legislators, providing senators and Assembly members with SUVs, luxury sedans and the occasional muscle car of their choice, along with a gas card to keep the tank full (and, of course, insurance and maintenance). Some states provide pool cars or pay mileage reimbursements, but no other state leases cars for legislators. California’s cars will be sold to private vendors.

California will begin paying mileage reimbursements, just as the state does for other employees who use their personal vehicles on the job. As a matter of principle and appearance, it’s the right thing to do.

– Jim Sweeney

13 Responses to “Impounding legislators’ cars”

  1. blue collar govt. worker says:

    @social Dis-ease
    i have have been working for local government for roughly 15 years and i do believe that there was a time that a government job was desirable! when i took my job from the private world i took a pay cut however i did realise i was receiving a much better retirement. to me back then it was worth the pay cut for a good future. how ever now i wish i had all these years of credits for S.S. because i gave that up and now they want to take what retirement i have away!
    and no to anyone who thinks its a 6 figure salary!

  2. Social Dis-Ease says:

    Were government jobs ever this desireable in our history?

    Has small business ever been such a liability, as difficult?

    It was never that way in our lifetimes.

    Not in our country anyway.

    See a trend?

  3. I Hate To Be the One to Tell You says:

    Our legislators, they deserve better. They should be offered a discounted bicycle, train tickets and bus tickets to use all of that wonderful, “green transportation” they are trying to force on us.

    “If its green it flys, if not, it dies.” The new motto for a new legislature. This rule could be applied at the local level too where reordering the transportation landscape is never ending.

    It would be good seeing the local and state legislators waiting in the rain on that cold morning for that bus or commuter train coming in 20 to 45 minutes to whisk them to the next stop and transfer. They might even get to meet new people, some who might be constitutents.

  4. Ed says:

    Okay, let’s say I’m a state legislator who has just been elected into office for 2 years. My district covers two counties and my home is approximately 100 miles from Sacramento. Conceivably I’d average putting about 1,000 work miles on my car per month. So,

    1,000 x .51 = $510 per month.
    $510 x 24 months = $12,240.

    My point is this. Under Schwarzenegger’s purported “money saving” policy, a state legislator can now buy his or her own car when they come into office, put a small down payment on it and then use their mileage reimbursements to pay the rest of it off over the course of 2 years. In the end, THEY own the vehicle, NOT the state.

    Under the previous policy, the state would have at least had the option of owning the vehicle and could sell it at auction. It should also be mentioned that the state and federal government are able to purchase vehicles at a special government rate; when the government puts their fleet vehicles back on the market, they’re sold at Blue Book value.

    So, the bottom line is the Commission screwed up. Sorry Mr. Sweeney, I was implying that they didn’t do their math homework, not you.

  5. blue collar govt. worker says:

    thank you for clarifying this, i have taken advantage of it my self.
    how ever im talking about the managers at a local sonoma county city that receive a monthly car alouance of $335+ and a gas card for a desk job that requires them to get to and from work, not using their city paid private vehicle for much work and reaping the benefits along with the 6 figure salary.

  6. Jim Sweeney says:

    Yes, Ed, I did read the Times article. And I concede that if legislators drive as many miles in their own cars as they did in lease cars, the cost may exceed the cost of the leases by about $200,000 a year. That’s a rounding error in the legislative budget, which is about $250 million, and it’s beyond irrelevant in a state budget of $85 billion. And, as I wrote, it’s a matter of principle. People have justifiably objected to this perk for years. Remember Carole Migden’s wild ride? Viven Bronshvag’s speeding ticket?

  7. Jeff McDonald says:

    People – you are ignoring the original capital cost of acquisition of the vehicle…! Factor in that amortization over 3-5 years (heaven forbid the legislator should be forced to be seen in an “old” car) and it becomes a different story. Put the depreciation burden on the legislator, not on the tax payer.

  8. Ed says:

    > Blue Collar Govt. Worker

    yes, this is a trickle down affect that applies to ALL government workers, as well as EVERYONE who calculates deductible costs for business related travel on their tax returns. the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) offers the same rate of mileage reimbursement for the benefit of not only Blue Collar Government Workers, but for everyone who has to travel great distances for work. it’s actually a government perk that every hard working tax payer should take advantage of.

  9. GAJ says:

    So the cars were actually money savers!

    Reinstate the cars but make them all high mpg/low cost cars made in the US.

    There are finally some good choices out there from Ford and GM.

    Win win situation.

  10. Ed says:

    so what you’re saying is the “right thing to do” is what’s most expensive to tax payers? hmmm… i guess Mr. Sweeney didn’t read the LA Times article “Mileage Plan For California Lawmakers Is Pricier Than Providing Cars.” http://articles.latimes.com/2011/nov/25/local/la-me-cars-legislature-20111125 somebody didn’t do their math homework.

  11. Grapevines says:

    It seems that the more we try to save money for the state, the more the legislature tries to find new ways to spend it. The California Senate is now in the process of giving all it’s staff raises of 3% to 5%.

    Didn’t anyone tell them that the state has run out of money and we now are taking funds away from the schools? I guess they figure to redistribute it back keeping it inhouse that way??

  12. blue collar govt. worker says:

    wonder if this will have a trickle down affect since our local government management are receiving the same benefits!

  13. Laurel says:

    It’s about time! No wonder we’re in such bad shape economically. It makes me sick thinking about how much of our money they’ve wasted on themselves. We could save even more money if we payed them the average salary in California: $47,000.
    I used to consider myself a liberal, but after seeing how poorly the government spends our tax money, I am now a libertarian.