Colorado lawmakers putting brakes on state employees
The Associated Press
Aspen, CO Colorado
DENVER – Lawmakers want to put the brakes on Gov. Bill Ritter’s fleet vehicle program and bar the use of state-owned vehicles for tax-free commuting unless it contributes to public safety.
Members of the Joint Budget Committee said average Joes can’t do it, the federal government doesn’t allow it and Ritter shouldn’t be granting such perks to his employees during a budget crisis.
“Nobody else in state government is getting a free ride to work, and they shouldn’t be doing it either ,” said state Rep. Kent Lambert, a Republican from Colorado Springs.
Lambert is sponsoring a bill being introduced Wednesday that would force Ritter to limit the program.
The bill would also require the state to collect reimbursement from employees who are using their vehicles for commuting.
The state owns and maintains about 5,500 state vehicles at a cost of $13 million a year. Lambert said he believes about 1,200 of those vehicles are nonessential and he estimates the state could save $3 million a year cutting back on the program.
Julie Postlethwait, spokeswoman for the Department of Personnel and Administration, which oversees the state fleet, said department heads decide who gets a state vehicle and the department has no control over the decision. She said the department has been reviewing fleet rules for a year and tried to cut back on the program.
“It’s a program we offer, and we can’t force other departments to cut back,” she said.
The department told lawmakers in December that under current commuting rules, there is no requirement for reimbursement from any employee. However, an estimated 31 percent of the authorized commuters do not qualify for a tax exemption and must pay taxes on the value of the commute – an estimated $20 a month. The department estimates the total cost of commuting for tax purposes at $60 a month, but 69 percent are exempt, mostly for public safety reasons.
Under the governor’s rules, the commute must be required by the department based on work requirements, the need for the vehicle to be available at all hours, an evaluation of reasonable alternatives and an analysis of cost versus the benefit to the state.
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