California lawmakers can say goodbye to their cars provided largely at taxpayer expense. The California Citizens Compensation Commission voted on March 14, 2011, to give legislators a $300 monthly car allowance to drive their own vehicles, effective the first week in December. The action was taken over the objection of new commission chairman Tom Dalzell, who cited a two-year-old opinion of the Department of Personnel Administration that the commission lacks authority over legislative travel expenses. Dalzell proposed postponing a vote until May to provide more time for legal review. The other five commissioners attending the meeting overruled him and voted to kill the existing car program.
Created by voter passage of Proposition 112 in 1990, the independent commission of seven gubernatorial appointees meets annually to set compensation for legislators and other statewide elected officials, from governor to Board of Equalization members. The Legislature’s vehicle program consumes a minuscule portion of the state budget, less than $1 million per year, but it was seized upon by the commission as an unnecessary expense in a year of massive budget deficit. For decades, the Legislature has offered to buy a vehicle of each lawmaker’s choosing and lease it back to the officeholder, who pays a portion of lease costs. Public funds pay for gas and maintenance. The state insures each car for business travel, while lawmakers purchase private policies for personal use. The vast majority of driving is required to be for business travel, though the split is not closely monitored.
Legislators who drive their own vehicles are reimbursed by the Senate at 40 cents per mile and by the Assembly at 44 cents per mile. In 2009, the pay panel cut legislative salaries from $116,208 to $95,291 and reduced per diem, car stipends and other benefits by 18 percent. It opted not to alter compensation last year.
This is the way to go. If you do not have the money for a new car at your home, you do not buy one. California has said NO to new cars for the State.———-Paul Schrader