Saturday, July 08, 2006

Putting the Brakes on "A Cherished Perk"

Tom Barnes and Tracie Mauriello of the Post-Gazette report today that, on the 1st Anniversary of the infamous legislative pay raise, the Pennsylvania Senate put an end to its members' taxpayer-paid car leases of up to $600 a month. The state senators also agreed that they and their staff members (about 1,000 people, according to the P-G) would begin contrituting to the cost of their health care plans.

From the article:

Until now, the (health care) premiums were fully paid by the state. The change should save taxpayers at least $450,000 a year, Mike Long, an aide to Senate President Pro Tem Bob Jubelirer, said yesterday ... The new policy on car leasing will take effect Aug. 1. The health premium change will take effect Sept. 15.

Mr. Long said that of the 50 senators, only 10 had been using the car leases, and not all of them at the $600-a-month level...

One is Mr. Jubelirer, an Altoona Republican who lost his re-election bid in May and will leave office Nov. 30. He leases a 2003 Lexus for $1,006 a month, with $600 coming from the state and the rest from himself.

Sen. Jane Orie, R-McCandless, used to lease a 2002 Ford Explorer for $498 a month, but has switched to a less-expensive 2006 Jeep Grand Cherokee at $364 a month.

Sen. Barry Stout, D-Washington, leases a 2005 Cadillac for $599 a month.

Mr. Long said that 30 other senators drive their own cars and are reimbursed for mileage. The remaining 10 senators drive cars from the state fleet...

"The members wanted to be responsive to the voters," Mr. Long said. "It was clear the lease arrangements were something the voters didn't like. They favored mileage reimbursement arrangements as they are used to in their own workplace."

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