According to a Sacramento Bee analysis of travel records for the Legislature, switching to a mileage-based reimbursement system in 2011 and eliminating the perk of providing cars to lawmakers has saved hundreds of thousands of dollars annually, despite the Legislature’s protest that the move was going to raise expenses. The California Senate and Assembly spent around $750,000 on mileage in the 2015-16 session, paying members 53 cents per mile when they drove their personal vehicles on legislative business. This is almost half the nearly $1.4 million cost that came from car leases, maintenance and gas in 2009-10, which was the last full two-year session before the program was dumped amid state budget woes. According to annual reports, spending for the Senate and Assembly totaled $246.8 million last year, up about 14 percent since 2010. Secretary of the Senate Danny Alvarez believes that small reductions in administrative costs provide money that can be redirected in a “beneficial way” to other legislative uses and even stated,
Anything that’s saved in this area just means that we can use those savings in a different way.
For decades, taxpayers paid for cars purchased by the Legislature and then leased to lawmakers for driving to the Capitol or around their districts. The 40 senators and 80 Assembly members were allowed to choose their vehicles and paid a portion of the monthly lease. The state covered gas, insurance and maintenance costs as well as the remainder of the lease. Payouts for mileage are high for a handful of lawmakers who represent sprawling areas or drive long distances to the Capitol. Nine legislators sought more than $20,000 in reimbursements during the 2015-16 session, which represents about 47 percent of the mileage expenditures over those two years. The switch to a mileage-based reimbursement system has definitely saved more money annually and hopefully more cost saving changes can be made to avoid having a higher state budget.