But does it include XM Radio and an iPod dock?

December 8, 2008

For a state well on the way to going broke, California continues to show it has its fiscal priorities straight — straight up where the sun doesn’t shine, that is. San Francisco Chronicle columnists Matier and Ross report that the Mandarins of the Golden Dome in Sacramento, also known as the California legislature, continue to get heavy subsidies for their autos and fuel:

California’s multibillion-dollar deficit hasn’t stopped the state from shelling out an estimated $1.3 million to keep 40 new and returning lawmakers rolling in style during these toughest of times.

Nearly all 28 of the newly sworn-in members of the Assembly, plus several of the 52 holdovers, have leased new wheels through the state – at a cost well below what the average wage slave pays at the dealer. On the Senate side, nine of the 11 new members – all of whom just moved over from the Assembly – picked up new rides along with their new titles.

Among them, San Francisco Democrat Mark Leno, who has a new, $32,000 Toyota Camry hybrid.

Contra Costa County’s newly minted Sen. Mark DeSaulnier and fellow Democrat Joe Simitian of Palo Alto both have new, $34,000 Nissan Altimas.

While most members have gone hybrid green with their car selections, there’s one notable exception.

Republican Sen. Bob Huff of Diamond Bar (Los Angeles County), who proudly declares on his Web site that he has led the fight to cut government waste and has never voted for a tax increase, ordered himself a brand-new, 2008 Cadillac CTS – priced at $46,000.

Under government rules, the legislators lease their vehicles from the state with the help of a monthly $350 to $500 auto allowance. The amount varies based on the lease terms and whether the member serves in the Assembly or Senate.

Any costs above that come out of the legislators’ pockets – which, in the case of the Senate, is anywhere from $35 a month for a new Chevy Malibu hybrid to $280 for a Lexus hybrid.

Of course, lawmakers also get free gas and maintenance.

Kind of reminds you of the CEOs of the Big Three automakers flying to Washington to beg for handouts for the bankrupt companies, doesn’t it?

I don’t object to some subsidies for necessary expenses incurred as part of their job, but, with the state teetering on the edge of bankruptcy, this is just plain silly and wasteful. California legislators receive salaries of $113,098 per year, and a per diem of $162 for each day the legislature is in session, which lasts roughly eight months. And on top of that they get discounted car leases and free gas and maintenance?  I want in on this deal! Money Eyes

With their salaries and per diems, California assemblymen and senators make more than enough to see to their transportation needs. Let them show genuine leadership and responsibility: the state needs to cut its budget sharply, and these auto perks should be among the first to go.

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