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CA lawmakers rack up gas card charges

September 26, 2008 12:00:00 AM PDT
California motorists have been forced to bare soaring gas prices this year. However, California lawmakers may have been the exception. The California legislature is taking advantage of a perk not available in any other state capital.How much gasoline do lawmakers need to conduct state business?

Click here to see the full list of gas guzzling California lawmakers

According to records obtained by the Associated Press, state Senator Sheila Kuehl (D-Santa Monica) is frugal. She drives the only car she has ever owned for state business, a 44-year-old Porsche.

She guesstimates on when to use her state-issued gas card

"I alternate one fill up with state, one fill up with campaign, one fill up with personal. It generally all evens out. And, I recommend that," said Kuehl.

However, charging habits vary widely. The top spender is Republican Guy Houston (R-Pleasanton) at about $5,100 between January and July of this year. Democrat Dean Florez of Shafter spends about the same amount.

Kuehl has spent $750 so far this year. But, in a nearby district Mark Ridley Thomas spent $3,100 dollars.

"We don't' know if these cards are being used for personal use, for campaign use, or legislative use," said Robert Stern, Center for Governmental Studies.

California is the only state in the nation to offer its lawmakers a free gas card without having to fill out a mileage expense form.

"Every time a legislator pays for the gas with the gas card, the legislator should indicate what the gas card was being used for. What trips? Where were they going? How many miles was it? Just like a state employee does," said Stern.

Taxpayers agree with Stern.

"I work for an insurance company and I have to account for everything. I have to make records for everything, and it all is accounted for. So, why don't' these people?" said Phillip Rosenberg from Winnetka.

"I think any government official should be accountable for any of their expenses ... Since the taxpayers are footing the bill," said John Brigham/Encino

Kuehl says filling out expense forms would be excessively time consuming since the bulk of her driving is for state business. If there is an audit, she says it should target only the biggest spenders.

 

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