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California lawmakers to lose their state cars

April 14, 2011 | 12:10 pm

Statecar

A state panel Thursday stripped California lawmakers of one of their most valued perks -- a state-purchased car, with gas and maintenance provided at taxpayer expense.

The California Citizens Compensation Commission voted instead to give each legislator a $300 monthly transportation allowance, estimating the action will save the state more than $2.3 million over the first five years.

"We're broke,'' said Commissioner Chuck Murray. "You have to cut money somewhere.''

The decision was made after Gov. Jerry Brown appointed union official Thomas Dalzell as the new chairman of the seven-member commission, replacing Murray. Murray remains on the panel in a non-leadership role.

Dalzell, the business manager for International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Local 1245 and a resident of Berkeley, sought unsuccessfully during the contentious meeting to delay a vote on the cars, arguing state attorneys had determined the panel does not have authority over the car perk.

"I believe we are trying to affect something which our counsel has told us we may not affect," Dalzell said before abstaining from the vote.

The commission kept the salaries of lawmakers intact, opting not to cut their pay.

The commission's decision to strip lawmakers of their cars comes as the state faces a $15-billion budget shortfall that could require deep cuts to schools, public safety and social service programs. In January, Gov. Jerry Brown ordered state agencies to halt new car purchases and sell automobiles that are not "essential" for state business, with hopes of cutting the state's fleet of 11,000 passenger cars and light trucks in half. But the governor's authority does not extend to the cars purchased by the Legislature for its members.

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-- Patrick McGreevy in Burbank

Photo: State Sen. Gloria Negrete McLeod in her state vehicle, a Toyota Prius, in 2007. Credit: Los Angeles Times

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