I’m just amplifying Tim White’s latest WPRI report on the use, and possibly, abuse of state-owned vehicles for top politicians, titled “Taxpayer Taxi.”
My immediate reaction is probably the same as everyone else’s, why the heck do they have state-owned and even chauffeured cars? Seriously? Here are all the people who we are paying to have a car, and maybe all have a driver:
-Governor Lincoln Chafee
-Lt. Governor Elizabeth Roberts
-Treasurer Gina Raimondo
-Senate President Teresa Paiva-Weed
-House Speaker Gordon Fox
Plus, possibly the Secretary of State, Ralph Mollis, but that has not been confirmed as his office has not yet responded to WPRI inquiries.
Wow. Five or six different politicians all need cars. Add to that, the Mayor of Providence also has a car. If you’ve been around City Hall, maybe you’ve noticed that the car has its own parking spot.
I try to be fair, so I can understand that maybe the Governor can be so busy that he can actually get work done by having a car and driver. I’m ok with that one and won’t argue it too much. But the others? The Lt. Governor needs a driver? The Treasurer? I’m not buying it in the least. Certainly not for the Senate President or House Speaker either.
The article indicates that two cars were purchased for about $60,000. Plus $7,500 a year in expenses. Sure, the approximate $33,000 a year in expenses for those four or five unnecessary cars is a drop in the bucket in the whole state budget, but we’re seeing many drops in the bucket. Can these people seriously not find any better use of $33,000 a year?
Add on to that, the article indicates the Senate President was using a Legislative Aide as her driver, who earns $39,000 a year. Is that the best use of a state employee? Is that what this person was hired for? Do we have five people making $39,000 a year to be chauffeurs? If so, that’d be another $160,000 we’re spending.
One other part of the article that stuck out to me was Sen. President Paiva-Weed’s statement:
“It was a tradition when the vehicle was acquired in 2007, prior to me becoming the Senate president,” she said. “If in fact it came time to acquire a new vehicle … I would give some consideration that maybe we no longer need a state vehicle.”
I would say that if a leader felt that way, then a leader would end the perk immediately. If she doesn’t think it’s something that she’d renew, that she isn’t seeing the value in it, then why is it continuing? I would think there are only two options here, either she sees the value and she would sign a deal to continue the perk, or she doesn’t see the value and should end the benefit immediately and sell the vehicle. It seems rather wishy-washy to tell Tim White that given the choice, you might not continue the benefit. SELL, SELL, SELL! That would show leadership.
Lastly, one other point that needs to be highlighted in Tim’s article is one of the last statements he makes in the video, that there are no logs kept of where the vehicles go, what they’re being used for, when they’re used and who they are used by. Is this merely oversight or are they trying to hide something? Unfortunately and possibly unfairly, when this is the case, we have to assume the worst.
The usual response to reports like this is the people involved just wait and hope that things blow over and it’s back to business as usual. I’m guessing that will be the case here, but maybe enough legislators will agree that enough is enough. If they’re not willing to cut their legislative grants to plug holes in the budget, maybe they’ll agree that these vehicles have got to go. It’s time to put an end to this pork.