Monday, May 12, 2008

$15 Million Pennsylvania Taxpayers Pay -- State Vehicles

Pennsylvania taxpayers pay more than $15 million a year to maintain, service, insure and fuel about 3,650 vehicles used full time by state employees, a newspaper reported.

The annual cost of vehicles used by cabinet officers, deputy secretaries, chief counsels, bureau directors, state troopers and others totals about $15.6 million, The Patriot-News of Harrisburg reported Sunday.

Some employees are also allowed to use their state cars for personal use, said Gov. Ed Rendell's spokesman Chuck Ardo, who was assigned his own state vehicle last week.

"Many of those who drive state cars travel extensively as part of their duties," Ardo said. "While some travel less extensively, they are out routinely on state business. Many others who are assigned state cars are on call 24 hours a day, seven days a week."

But Barry Kauffman, the executive director of the public watchdog group Common Cause Pennsylvania, said the number was excessive.

"It seems there needs to be an effort afoot to totally re-evaluate the policy on state cars," Kauffman said. "It's just beyond my ability to understand why we need to have 3,650 employees with permanently assigned cars."

Two state legislators, Senate President Pro Tempore Joseph Scarnati and Senate Majority Leader Dominic Pileggi, are asking Auditor General Jack Wagner to do an audit of the use of state cars.

"It appears ... there are people who may have the use of a state vehicle for what is essentially a short commute to their place of employment in Harrisburg and are permitted to use the vehicle for their personal use," they said in a letter to Wagner. "That's what we're trying to determine."

The Rendell administration said that, since 2003, the size of the state fleet has declined. The fleet had 16,544 vehicles in 2004-05, compared with 16,307 this year.

The administration also said the mileage limit for vehicle replacements has been extended from 65,000 miles in 2003, when Rendell took office, to 100,000 for passenger cars and to 120,000 for commercial and sport utility vehicles.