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Pennsylvania Legislators Test Costs of Leasing Vs. Reimbursement

November 16, 2006

Lawmakers in Pennsylvania are experimenting with mileage reimbursement versus leasing through the state after the Senate announced its members would no longer have the option of taxpayer-funded privately leased vehicles, according to The Daily & Sunday Review (Towanda, Pa.).The seven of the state’s 50 senators still leasing privately will be allowed to retain their leases until the end of their terms. The senators say they lease privately out of habit or because the vehicle they prefer was not available in the state’s fleet system. Under this option being phased out, taxpayers pick up a majority of the monthly lease payment and contribute to annual insurance premiums, The Daily & Sunday Review reports. Rep. Tina Pickett (R-Bradford County) drove her own vehicle for several years and billed the House of Representatives for mileage. Last May, she started driving a 2002 Chevy Malibu that she leases from the state’s Department of General Services for $267 a month to see if it would be cheaper for taxpayers than collecting the 44.5 cents per mile.The senator’s legislative expense reports show that so far, she is saving taxpayers’ money. Ms. Pickett’s mileage reimbursements in 2005 averaged more than $600 a month, those reports indicate. Her state-leased car works out to be far less, even when you add in the costs of gas and oil, which she also can bill to the state. And the DGS lease cost includes maintenance and insurance.The state’s fleet has proven a popular choice among lawmakers. DGS records indicate more than half of lawmakers—134 out of 253—drive a fleet vehicle, including 16 of Northeastern Pennsylvania’s 30 lawmakers. Lawmakers who prefer to drive their own cars and bill for mileage cite various reasons for the decision, including that the chamber wanted to be more reflective of how private employers function or that senators want to live up to campaign promises of reducing expenses.
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