California lawmakers keep vehicle perk
Published: Friday, December 3, 2010 at 10:56 a.m.
Last Modified: Friday, December 3, 2010 at 10:56 a.m.
SACRAMENTO — California lawmakers enjoy a perk that seems like a luxurious amenity in a state that has been slashing billions of dollars from its budget: taxpayer-provided cars.
State vehicles driven by California lawmakers
Here are the vehicles provided to California lawmakers in their districts, the purchase cost and the amount each lawmaker pays per month above the state subsidized amount. The subsidy, or monthly allowance, is $287 for senators and $328 for Assembly members (Assemblyman Ted Lieu reimburses the state for the entire monthly cost of his vehicle).
Aanestad, Sam, R-Grass Valley: used 2006 Chrysler 300; $11,200; $73.30.
Alquist, Elaine, D-Santa Clara: 2005 Toyota Prius Hybrid; $28,786; $56.48.
Ashburn, Roy, R-Bakersfield: used 2009 Chevrolet Malibu; $20,826; $135.46.
Calderon, Ron, D-Monterey Park: 2006 Cadillac STS; $54,830; $375.84.
Cedillo, Gil, D-Los Angeles: 2007 Lexus RX 400H Hybrid; $52,235; $342.70.
Cogdill, Dave, R-Modesto: 2009 Chevrolet Silverado; $38,566; $178.67.
Corbett, Ellen, D-San Leandro: 2007 Toyota Prius Hybrid; $28,954; $93.91.
Correa, Lou, D-Anaheim: used 2004 Toyota Prius Hybrid; $9,970; $65.57.
Denham, Jeff, R-Merced: none.
De Saulnier, Mark, D-Martinez: 2009 Nissan Altima Hybrid; $34,635; $131.49.
Ducheny, Denise, D-San Diego: 2007 Toyota Prius Hybrid; $27,803; $90.28.
Dutton, Bob, R-Rancho Cucamonga: 2005 Chevrolet Tahoe Z71; $40,592; $38.79.
Emmerson, Bill, R-Redlands: used 2009 Chevrolet Malibu; $20,842; $70.04.
Florez, Dean, D-Shafter: 2007 Lexus RX 400H Hybrid; $49,627; $311.40.
Hancock, Loni, D-Berkeley: used 2007 Toyota Camry Hybrid; $24,412; $79.63.
Harman, Tom, R-Huntington Beach: used 2005 Chrysler 300C; $28,828; $93.50.
Hollingsworth, Dennis, R-Temecula: 2007 Ford Expedition; $44,549; $250.46.
Huff, Bob, R-Diamond Bar: 2008 Cadillac CTS; $41,300; $211.47.
Kehoe, Christine, D-San Diego: 2005 Honda Accord Hybrid; $32,922; $50.82.
Leno, Mark, D-San Francisco: 2009 Toyota Camry Hybrid; $31,974; $103.40.
Liu, Carol, D-Pasadena: none.
Lowenthal, Alan, D-Long Beach: 2005 Ford Escape Hybrid; $34,366; $55.93.
Negrete McLeod, Gloria, D-Chino: 2007 Toyota Prius Hybrid; $29,286; $94.97.
Padilla, Alex, D-Los Angeles: 2007 Toyota Camry Hybrid; $37,735; $168.69.
Pavley, Fran, D-Agoura Hills: 2009 Toyota Camry Hybrid; $31,785; $102.80.
Price, Curren, D-Inglewood: 2010 Buick LaCrosse; $35,833; $145.87.
Romero, Gloria, D-Los Angeles: none.
Runner, George, R-Lancaster: 2008 Toyota Highlander Hybrid; $45,201; $258.29.
Simitian, Joe, D-Palo Alto: 2009 Nissan Altima Hybrid; $34,287; $127.31.
Steinberg, Darrell, D-Sacramento: 2007 Toyota Prius Hybrid; $29,592; $95.91.
Strickland, Tony, R-Thousand Oaks: none.
Walters, Mimi, R-Mission Viejo: 2009 Chevrolet Malibu Hybrid; $26,404; $85.89.
Wiggins, Patricia, D-Santa Rosa: none.
Wolk, Lois, D-Davis: 2009 Toyota Camry Hybrid; $31,980; $103.42.
Wright, Rod, D-Inglewood: used 2005 Cadillac XLR Roadster; $34,541; $130.37.
Wyland, Mark, R-Solana Beach: none.
Yee, Leland, D-San Francisco: 2007 Toyota Highlander Hybrid; $41,078; $224.03.
Adams, Anthony, R-Hesperia: 2006 Chevrolet Silverado 1500 Hybrid; $26,720; $71.14.
Ammiano, Tom, D-San Francisco: 2009 Toyota Camry Hybrid; $32,978; $90.81.
Anderson, Joel, R-La Mesa: 2006 Chrysler 300 Signature Series; $32,373; $94.35.
Arambula, Juan, D-Fresno: none.
Bass, Karen, D-Los Angeles: 2005 Ford 500, $30,000; $100.32.
Beall, James, D-San Jose: 2007 Chevrolet Impala; $31,729; $105.75.
Berryhill, Bill, R-Ceres: 2009 Ford Escape Hybrid; $37,667; $105.56.
Berryhill, Tom, R-Modesto: 2007 Jeep Cherokee Limited 4x4; $37,942; $360.98.
Blakeslee, Sam, R-San Luis Obispo: 2007 Toyota Highlander Hybrid LTD, 4WD; $42,848; $161.18.
Block, Marty, D-San Diego: none.
Blumenfield, Robert, D-Sherman Oaks: 2009 Ford Escape Hybrid; $35,685; $99.33.
Bradford, Steven, D-Gardena: 2010 Buick LaCrosse CXS; $37,672; $356.11.
Brownley, Julia, D-Santa Monica: 2007 Toyota Prius Hybrid; $31,675; $86.72.
Buchanan, Joan, D-Alamo: 2009 Toyota Camry Hybrid; $31,883; 143.90.
Caballero, Anna, D-Salinas: 2007 Toyota Prius Hybrid; $29,924; $81.22.
Calderon, Charles, D-Whittier: 2007 Lincoln Town Car; $35,665; $319.98.
Carter, Wilmer, D-Rialto: 2007 Toyota Camry Hybrid; $33,464; $92.34.
Chesbro, Wesley, D-Arcata: 2009 Toyota Prius Hybrid; $31,495; $136.92.
Conway, Connie, R-Tulare: 2009 Toyota Highlander Hybrid; $48,462; $228.55.
Cook, Paul, R-Yucca Valley: 2007 Nissan Altima Hybrid; $34,479; $95.53.
Coto, Joe, D-San Jose: 2009 Toyota Camry Hybrid; $33,935; $93.83.
Davis, Mike, D-Los Angeles: 2005 Lincoln Town Car; $31,188; $104.05.
De La Torre, Hector, D-South Gate: 2005 Ford Escape Hybrid; $29,981; $90.82.
De Leon, Kevin, D-Los Angeles: 2007 Toyota Camry Hybrid; $30,904; $84.29.
DeVore, Chuck, R-Irvine, none.
Eng, Mike, D-Monterey Park: 2004 Toyota Prius Hybrid; $28,321; $61.58.
Evans, Noreen, D-Santa Rosa: 2006 Toyota Highlander Hybrid Limited 2WD; $43,905; $173.86.
Feuer, Mike, D-Los Angeles: 2007 Toyota Prius Hybrid; $30,461; $82.90.
Fletcher, Nathan, R-San Diego: 2007 Toyota Highlander Hybrid; $40,408; $99.51.
Fong, Paul, D-Cupertino: 2009 Ford Escape Hybrid; $35,376; $98.36.
Fuentes, Felipe, D-Sylmar: 2009 Chevrolet Malibu Hybrid; $29,956; $118.98.
Fuller, Jean, R-Bakersfield: none.
Furutani, Warren, D-Lakewood: 2008 Mercury Mariner Hybrid; $33,317; $91.89.
Gaines, Ted, R-Granite Bay: 2007 Toyota Camry Hybrid; $33,453; $92.31.
Galgiani, Cathleen, D-Tracy: 2007 Ford Crown Victoria; $32,499; $262.99.
Garrick, Martin, R-Solana Beach: none.
Gatto, Mike, D-Los Angeles: 2010 Ford Fusion Hybrid; $32,848; $90.41.
Gilmore, Danny, R-Hanford: 2009 Ford Escape Hybrid; $38,664; $265.95.
Hagman, Curt, R-Chino Hills: 2007 Toyota Highlander Hybrid Limited 2WD; $40,723; $103.31.
Hall, Isadore, D-Compton: 2008 Chevrolet Tahoe Hybrid; $48,500; $229.
Harkey, Diane, R-Dana Point: none.
Hayashi, Mary, D-Hayward: 2008 Toyota Highlander Hybrid; $46,007; $199.09.
Hernandez, Ed, D-Baldwin Park: 2007 GMC Envoy Denali; $37,454; $352.19.
Hill, Jerry, D-San Mateo: 2009 Toyota Camry Hybrid; $32,439; $153.91.
Huber, Alyson, D-Lodi: 2006 Toyota Highlander Hybrid; $40,463; $83.80.
Huffman, Jared, D-San Rafael: 2007 Toyota Camry Hybrid; $33,436; $92.26.
Jeffries, Kevin, R-Lake Elsinore: 2007 Dodge Nitro 4x4; $28,943; $97.
Jones, Dave, D-Sacramento: 2004 Toyota Prius Hybrid; $27,772; $119.68.
Knight, Steve, R-Lancaster: 2009 Ford Fusion SEL; $25,542; $86.30.
Lieu, Ted, D-Torrance: 2005 Honda Accord Hybrid; $30,579; $336.95.
Logue, Dan, R-Linda: 2008 Chevrolet Tahoe Hybrid; $48,499; $229.
Lowenthal, Bonnie, D-Long Beach: 2009 Ford Escape Hybrid; $34,982; $97.12.
Ma, Fiona, D-San Francisco: none.
Mendoza, Tony, D-Artesia: 2007 Toyota Highlander Hybrid LTD, 4WD; $44,000; $175.
Miller, Jeff, R-Corona: 2008 GMC Yukon Hybrid; $47,802; $220.63.
Monning, Bill, D-Monterey: 2007 Toyota Camry Hybrid; $33,059; $61.15.
Nava, Pedro, D-Santa Barbara: 2009 Toyota Highlander Hybrid, $48,142; $230.52.
Nestande, Brian, R-Palm Desert: none.
Niello, Roger, R-Fair Oaks: none.
Nielson, Jim, R-Yuba City: 2009 Ford Edge AWD-SEL; $39,950; $397.10.
Norby, Chris, R-Fullerton: 2010 Ford Flex SEL; $32,500; $109.
Perez, John, D-Los Angeles: 2010 Chrysler Sebring Limited Convertible; $35,820; $322.78.
Perez, Manuel, D-Coachella: 2008 GMC Acadia; $32,500; $109.
Portantino, Anthony, D-La Canada Flintridge: none.
Ruskin, Ira, D-Redwood City: 2005 Toyota Prius Hybrid; $25,564; $76.94.
Salas, Mary, D-Chula Vista: none.
Saldana, Lori, D-San Diego: 2005 Honda Accord Hybrid; $32,922; $31.02.
Silva, Jim, R-Sunset Beach: 2007 Toyota Highlander Hybrid Limited 2WD; $39,645; $122.75.
Skinner, Nancy, D-Berkeley: 2009 Toyota Prius Hybrid; $28,507; $76.76.
Smyth, Cameron, R-Santa Clarita: 2010 Chevrolet Traverse; $36,052; $326.94.
Solorio, Jose, D-Santa Ana: 2007 Honda Civic Hybrid; $29,730; $80.61.
Strickland, Audra, R-Thousand Oaks: 2005 Ford Escape Limited; $28,844; $96.68.
Swanson, Sandre, D-Alameda: 2007 Ford Escape Hybrid; $33,636; $175.45.
Torlakson, Tom, D-Martinez: 2006 Toyota Highlander Hybrid Limited 4WD; $43,215; $86.43.
Torres, Norma, D-Pomona: 2008 Toyota Highlander Hybrid; $38,612; $110.35.
Torrico, Alberto, D-Fremont: 2009 Toyota Highlander Hybrid, $39,658; $283.86.
Tran, Van, R-Costa Mesa: 2008 Chrysler Aspen; $39,530; $389.54.
Villines, Mike, R-Clovis: 2008 Toyota Highlander Hybrid; $48,402; $227.83.
Yamada, Mariko, D-Davis: none.
Schmidt, Greg, secretary of the Senate: used 2007 Toyota Highlander Hybrid; $19,600; $27.02.
Beard, Tony, Senate chief sergeant-at-arms: used 2006 Lexus RX 400h Hybrid; $28,850; $34.52.
Waldie, Jonathon, Assembly chief administrative officer: 2006 Toyota Highlander Hybrid; $43,215; $36.18.
Pane, Ronald, Assembly chief sergeant-at-arms: 2006 Toyota Highlander Hybrid; $43,332; $31.46.
Source: Assembly and Senate rules committees.
The state purchases cars for lawmakers to drive around their districts and the capital under a decades-old program, spending more than $5 million for the latest suite of vehicles that includes a $55,000 Cadillac sedan and a $52,000 Lexus hybrid.
Lawmakers are enjoying the benefit at a time when the state is in a financial mess and Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger has called legislators into a special session next week to address a $6 billion deficit. Lawmakers already have cut programs such as adult dental care and health care programs for children from low-income families, and more cuts are likely on the way.
California is the only state in the nation to provide vehicles to its rank-and-file lawmakers for unlimited use, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures.
The Associated Press sought information about lawmakers' vehicles and the cost to taxpayers as part of an ongoing examination of California legislative records and spending. The record-keeping officers of the Assembly and Senate supplied the information in response to a formal request.
The Senate will review the program as it seeks to reduce its operating costs for the third consecutive year, Nathan Barankin, spokesman for Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg, said Friday in response to the AP's story.
"The real question is, is there a cheaper, more efficient way of providing transportation for lawmakers to do their job?" he said.
The compensation and benefits given to California lawmakers has come under intense criticism in the past year. Legislative officials fought an 18 percent cut in lawmakers' pay and benefits in 2009 while other state employees were enduring three-day-a-month furloughs.
The reductions eventually were approved, along with lowering monthly vehicle allowances for lawmakers.
"It just says, 'What's ours is ours; the rules don't apply to us,'" said Charles Murray, chairman of the California Citizens Compensation Commission, an independent body that sets the compensation for lawmakers and constitutional officers. "I think in tough economic times, all these little sweetheart deals, all these perks, start to come to the surface and people start to ask questions."
The Legislature's vehicle program dates to the 1950s, when lawmakers decided it was cheaper to buy cars and gasoline than to be reimbursed by the mile.
The most common alternative to legislative cars, reimbursing lawmakers at the Internal Revenue Service's standard business rate of 50 cents per mile, would likely be more expensive, Barankin said. The current program is generally cost-efficient because the state sells the used vehicles after lawmakers are done with them, he said.
The Legislature said it could not provide information about how many miles each vehicle was driven or where lawmakers drive their vehicles because it does not keep track.
At a reimbursement rate of 50 cents a mile, lawmakers would have to drive a collective 10 million miles to reach the $5 million taken from the general fund to buy the vehicles — equal to more than 3,000 cross-country trips. The net cost to the state is unknown because the amount of lawmakers' leases and the resale values will vary.
Senate Minority Leader Bob Dutton, a Republican from Rancho Cucamonga, said he believes the current system is cheaper than reimbursing legislators for each mile they drive, but also said the program should be re-evaluated as lawmakers look for areas to cut costs.
"There's a lot of things that need to be looked at, and we could revisit this as well," said Dutton, who drives a 2005 Chevy Tahoe under the program.
Spokeswomen for the Democratic and Republican leaders in the Assembly said only that they are willing to look for cost savings in all areas of the budget. Shannon Murphy, spokeswoman for Assembly Speaker John Perez, D-Los Angeles, noted that the Assembly has cut its operating budget by 15 percent.
Taxpayers spent $3.5 million to buy the 99 vehicles lawmakers use when they visit their home districts.
The 80-member Assembly spent another $1.4 million to buy 49 Toyota Camry Hybrids for 51 lawmakers who live far from the state capital and use the vehicles when they are in Sacramento. The Senate, which has 40 members, spends an additional $81,000 a year to lease 25 vehicles for senators' use in Sacramento.
Their rides range from a $9,900 2004 Toyota Prius to a $55,000 Cadillac STS. The state spent an average of $35,250 on all vehicles lawmakers use in their districts.
Lawmakers pay a percentage of their vehicle's cost — 10 percent for less expensive vehicles and more for higher-end models — through a payroll deduction. Taxpayers pick up the rest while also paying the gasoline costs for lawmakers, who are given state-issued charge cards.
The Legislature buys the vehicles outright, then leases them to lawmakers at a state-subsidized rate. The Legislature determines the amount lawmakers must pay above the monthly vehicle allowance, if any, and deducts that from their paychecks.
The amount lawmakers contribute varies greatly, depending on the cost of the vehicle they choose. Assemblywoman Lori Saldana, D-San Diego, contributes $31.02 a month toward her 2005 Honda Accord hybrid, while Assemblyman Jim Nielsen, R-Yuba City, pays the most, $397.10, toward his 2009 Ford Edge. Dutton pays $38.79 a month for his Tahoe.
Under the reductions approved last year by the compensation commission, the maximum amount the state will contribute toward a lawmaker's vehicle was reduced from $350 to $287 in the Senate and from $400 to $328 in the Assembly. In June, the commission decided against any further cuts for lawmakers or statewide officials.
The most expensive vehicles are used by two Southern California Democrats. Sen. Ron Calderon of Monterey Park drives a $54,830 2006 Cadillac STS while Sen. Gil Cedillo of Los Angeles uses a $52,235 2007 Lexus LX 400H hybrid.
Calderon likes an American-made car roomy enough to ferry staff members to events around his district, said spokesman Bob Jimenez.
Because the state's monthly payments are capped, Calderon, Cedillo and other lawmakers who choose expensive cars pay the difference out of their pockets.
"The taxpayers aren't being burdened with him driving a Cadillac any more than they are with a lawmaker driving a Prius," Jimenez said.
Even so, those lawmakers reimburse the state for just a fraction of the vehicle's purchase price.
Cedillo, for example, pays the state $373.64 a month to lease his 2007 Lexus, or $4,483 per year. If he continued paying that amount for his entire four-year Senate term, Cedillo will have reimbursed the state a total of $17,934, or 34 percent of the vehicle's total purchase price.
Most states reimburse lawmakers' mileage for official business. Arizona, Nevada and Pennsylvania allow their state lawmakers to check out motor pool vehicles for official trips, while Florida and Minnesota let them use rental cars. New York and the New Jersey Assembly (but not its Senate) provide vehicles only for their top leadership.
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