In a recent blog “There’s No Such Thing as a Free Lunch” I told you about how California’s Senators are making off with taxpayers money in the form of free meals, $113,316 so far this year. plus another $2900 on snack foods. I ended the blog with “Yeah, there ought to be a law! Hey maybe they’ll pass one! Yeah right!” Well not long after that, senate lawmakers responded to the taxpayer outrage their eating habits were causing and announced that they would no longer dine at taxpayers expense. They’ve decided that all members of the senate will be billed $2000 a year to cover their meals and snacks when sessions run into the lunch or dinner hour and will also help to keep the coffee room stocked. Chalk one up for the taxpayers!
And as we win one, we lose one as well. One of Governor Brown’s budget cutting money measures, designed to save California a bundle of money appears to be backfiring in the savings department. A citizen’s commission appointed by Brown to study and recommend ways to save the state money decided to take away one of California lawmakers biggest perks, their state automobile which by the way, they personally choose, and includes insurance, maintenance and gas, paid for by, you guessed it, Us! Instead they would receive a $300 a month car allowance. Sounds fair right? When you consider that last year vehicle expenses were nearly $736,000! The car allowance would reduce that amount by over $300,000. A very nice state savings from a faction of state government that is already over paid!
Well as great as it sounded when announced, it wasn’t to be. It seems the commission overstepped their authority by issuing the car allowance. The state controller promptly took it away and announced that instead legislators would be paid the standard state rate of .55 cents a mile for using their personal vehicles while on state business. He said that making legislators file for mileage rather than getting the $300 a month would better protect taxpayer’s money from unnecessary payments or misuse.
I’m all for protecting state funds, but the state would have been better off if the controller would have done away with the entire measure and let legislators keep their vehicles. I know, that probably sounds ludicrous, but it’s true! Based on miles driven by legislators last year, the .55 cent mileage reimbursement could wind up costing taxpayers more than a million dollars. So the measure that was supposed to have saved us over $300,000, will now cost us $300,000 or more than we were paying before when we supplied cars to legislators. Legislators are elated! Getting paid mileage is much better for them!
The $300 allowance would have covered 545 miles per month. That’s 136.25 miles per week or 27.25 miles per day. I can guarantee you most legislators drive more than 27 miles a day. Some have districts that are larger than several states! The largest California district covers over 33,000 square miles! Believe me the $300 a month allowance is definitely the way to go if saving money is truly the issue. Some legislators believe that the use of their personal vehicles entitles them to receive both the allowance and the standard mileage rate and are looking into the legality of the issue. If they’re right the stat loses even more of our dwindling funds!
Some members of the senate were fine with the commissions decision to take away their cars. One went so far as to welcome what he called “an opportunity to share in the pain of Californians.” I hope he was being facetious, otherwise, what an ass! A chance to share in our pain indeed! The highest paid senate in the nation will have to do a lot worse than lose their vehicles to share our pain. Besides, the way it looks, the state controller is handing them an even bigger payday in it’s place! Go figure. California taxpayers just can’t win. I guess sometimes leaving well enough alone is the best thing to do.