SACRAMENTO (CBS / AP) ― Gov. Jerry Brown on Friday halted new-vehicle purchases by the state of California and ordered vehicles that are not essential for state business to be turned in.
He also asked branches of government not under his direct authority to consider cutting vehicle and other expenses.
The Democratic governor said he ultimately wants to cut the government’s fleet of passenger vehicles in half. He wants to do the same with the number of permits that allow state workers to use their taxpayer-funded vehicles for their daily commute.
Friday’s announcement comes three weeks after Brown told half of state employees to give up their government-paid cell phones. Both moves are to help the state bridge a deficit projected to be $25 billion over the next 18 months.
Last year, the administration of former Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger sold nearly 4,000 state vehicles and eliminated more than 2,000 of the so-called home-storage permits.
The Department of General Services said the state has about 11,000 passenger cars and trucks. It also has issued about 4,500 permits allowing workers not involved in public safety to take their vehicles home.
“There is a lot of wasteful spending on cars that aren’t even driven,” Brown said. “And we can’t afford to spend taxpayer money on new cars while California faces such a massive deficit.”
Schwarzenegger’s attempt to reduce the fleet was successful as far as it went, Brown spokeswoman Elizabeth Ashford said. She indicated that Brown’s order will exempt fewer agencies and departments, force agencies to use the remaining fleet more efficiently and sell vehicles through online auction sites.
The governor has no control over the Legislature, which provides vehicles for most lawmakers’ use in Sacramento and their home districts. An Associated Press investigation in early December found the Legislature had spent $5 million in taxpayer money for its latest fleet of vehicles, which included a $55,000 Cadillac sedan and a $52,000 Lexus hybrid.
California is the only state that provides vehicles to its rank-and-file lawmakers for unlimited use.
A separate investigation by the AP in 2008 revealed that California lawmakers also are the only ones in the nation to have state-issued credit cards that allow them to charge taxpayers for gasoline and other expenses.
Brown’s executive order does not mention the Legislature. His spokeswoman said he was not specifically targeting lawmakers when he asked other agencies to reduce their vehicle expenses.
“We hope that everyone else in state government takes a hard look, as well,” Ashford said.
(© 2011 CBS Broadcasting Inc. and The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.)