My gasoline bill runs me about 70 bucks a week for my S-10 pickup between a 70 mile round trip back and forth to work and all the other running I have to do.
I've always wondered why our lawmakers refuse to do anything about the flagrant price gouging until I read this in today's paper.
I really had to laugh at the part where the head of the Assembly Rules Committee says "I trust them". Yeah right. Trust a politician......
I know it's a long post, but it's worth the time it takes to read it.
Californians have been feeling pain at the pump for months amid record-high gas prices, with one notable exception: state lawmakers.
Members of California's Legislature enjoy a perk not available in any other state capital - unchecked use of gasoline charge cards that stick taxpayers with the bill.
Through the first seven months of the year, California taxpayers have spent $220,000 to pay the gasoline charges of their lawmakers, according to a review of records requested by The Associated Press. That includes July, when lawmakers already were passed their deadline to approve a budget and the state faced a $15.2 billion deficit.
California is unique in giving legislators free rein on transportation spending, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures. In most other states, lawmakers must submit the same kind of mileage expense forms used by companies to reimburse employees for their business travel.
"You have to prove what you're using it for," said Morgan Cullin, a Denver-based researcher for the bipartisan national organization.
On top of free gas, California lawmakers also get state-issued vehicles, another perk that most states avoid.
The fuel card given to lawmakers is supposed to be used "for legislative purposes," but there is no way to check if they use it for public business or private travel.
Lawmakers pull up to the pump, swipe the gas card and never see the bill, which is sent directly to the Senate and Assembly rules committees. The taxpayers take over from there.
"I trust them," said Jon Waldie, the Assembly Rules Committee's chief administrative officer.
The charge cards also can be used for incidental purchases such as snacks, drinks, windshield wipers or even oil changes. Legislative officers said there is no way to know how much lawmakers are charging for those but said the bulk of the payments are for fuel.
Robert Stern, president of the Center for Governmental Studies in Los Angeles, said use of the charge cards should be scrutinized more closely or scrapped altogether.
"There should be a random audit done of the use of the car and other expenses by an outside auditor," said Stern, the former general counsel of the California Fair Political Practices Commission. "If everybody knows there is no oversight, they're going to slip a little bit."
He said California could save money by reimbursing legislators for each mile they drive on official business instead of handing them a taxpayer-funded car and gasoline charge card. The practice of giving legislators both began about 50 years ago, when gas was cheap and part-time lawmakers earned little.
"Now they're paid a lot, and they still get the perk," Stern said.
California lawmakers make $116,208 a year plus $170 for daily expenses. The Assembly speaker and president pro tem of the Senate make $133,639 annually.
Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger doesn't use a state-issued gas card. As governor, his transportation is provided by the California Highway Patrol.
Lawmakers are on pace to set an annual record for gasoline charges, billing taxpayers nearly $40,000 more through July than during the same seven-month period last year. Part of that is certainly due to this year's soaring gas prices, but there is no efficient way to check whether lawmakers are driving more or cutting back on the miles they drive, as most Americans have.
Of California's 120 lawmakers, 21 charged more than $3,000 to their gasoline cards from January through July. Of those, 13 are Republicans, who preached about fiscal austerity during this summer's record-long budget impasse.