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Legislators face deadline in two weeks to turn in state cars

November 15, 2011 |  7:45 am

State lawmakers are scrambling to find new transportation as the Dec. 1 deadline approaches for them to give up their state-owned cars.

Some legislators say they hope to buy their state cars, but it’s unclear whether the public will ever know what kind of deal the lawmakers get.

A state panel decided in April that California's budget problems required legislators to surrender their state-purchased cars and instead receive a $300 per month transportation allowance, which is less expensive. Some legislators say they plan to take their personal car out of their home garage and put it to use traveling in their districts, while others will either lease another car with the new allowance or try to purchase their state car when it is auctioned off.

Legislative leaders said they plan to take competing bids from car dealers and other brokers and sell most of the 76 SUVs, luxury touring cars and hybrids that had been purchased for lawmakers, who then could buy the cars from those dealers.

State Sen. Ron Calderon (D-Montebello) hopes to be able to buy the Cadillac STS V-8 luxury sports sedan that the state purchased for him for  $54,830, the most expensive vehicle in legislators’ hands. "The Cadillac meets his specific [need] to get him in and around the district so he is going to stick with the vehicle," said Rocky Rushing, Calderon's chief of staff.

The state may not require a car dealer or other purchaser of state cars to disclose how much a lawmaker paid for a resold vehicle. "I imagine those would be considered private transactions,"  said Mark Hedlund, a spokesman for Senate leader Darrell Steinberg (D-Sacramento).

But that information is important for taxpayers to have to make sure legislators are not getting deep discounts not offered to the public, others said. "I think it is very important that if they are sold to legislators that the state receives fair market value," said Jon Coupal, president of the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Assn. "That would be the primary concern. And as taxpayers we would insist that all those transactions be 100% transparent."

-- Patrick McGreevy