Pa. Lawmakers Cut Back on State Vehicle Use

March 19, 2009

HARRISBURG, PA – Expecting public scrutiny of all their perks, Pennsylvania legislators have eschewed the chance to drive state cars in greater numbers than at any point in recent memory. An even 100 state House and Senate members now have taxpayer-subsidized vehicles — a figure nearly half of what it was 16 years ago, according to Philly.com.

Freshmen lawmakers are fueling the continued drop-off this term. All but six of the 34 representatives and senators first elected in November are driving their own cars.

"The taxpayers shouldn't be burdened with this, especially in these tough economic times," Rep. Frank Farry (R., Bucks) said recently, reported Philly.com.

State cars are among a list of pricey and controversial legislative perks.

Pennsylvania and California are the only states that offer all their state lawmakers access to subsidized cars. But the rules have changed in the Keystone State in recent years.

After the 2005 pay-raise debacle, the Senate and later the House began phasing out a decades-old policy that allowed legislators to lease vehicles from private dealerships at public expense. The House had covered up to $650 a month; the Senate, $600. As a result, Capitol parking lots for years were loaded with Lincolns and Cadillacs.

Now, however, lawmakers have to drive their own cars and bill the state for mileage or pick a vehicle from the government-owned fleet program. Fleet vehicles are typically base models with few frills.

Legislators pay a portion of the lease cost based on the amount of personal driving they do.

One lawmaker said that when factoring in the many miles these officials drive, the fleet program is cheaper than the alternative: billing the state 55 cents for each work-related mile put on a personal car.

However, not all legislators who drive their own cars bill for all mileage, according to Philly.com.

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