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March 31. 2012 11:43PM

Driving for dollars: State cars should be for state use

Give credit to state Sen. Chuck Morse of Salem and Grant Bosse and the Josiah Bartlett Center for potentially increasing New Hampshire's hard-pressed highway fund to the tune of close to $1 million annually.

That is one estimate of how much will be gained each year if government employees reimburse the state for their personal use of state-owned vehicles.

The state Senate passed this measure unanimously last week. The House ought to follow suit, and the governor should sign it as soon as it lands on his desk.

Bosse led a Bartlett Center study of the use of state-owned vehicles for personal driving. Center Director Charles Arlinghaus wrote about it in his Union Leader column, and our newspaper also reported some of the findings. They were startling, especially for a state that prides itself on supposedly stretching its dollars.

State cars used more than 15 percent of the time for personal use must be reported. Recent figures show that such vehicles racked up 1.5 million personal miles of travel in a single year. Under Sen. Morse's bill, that travel will now be reimbursed.

Bosse's study showed that much of Cannon Mountain manager John Devivo's state car's mileage (19,000 out of 31,000 total miles in one year) was racked up in driving to and from his home in Maine. If he wants to live in Maine, OK, but on the taxpayers' dime?

George Bald, Devivo's boss, said the man doesn't get overtime and may be called out, even during holidays, so the car isn't a “perk.''

Well, he is a manager and that is what is required of managers. A state-supplied car that is used mostly for commuting sure sounds like a “perk.'' If it is part of his compensation package, perhaps that should be reviewed.

The state should regularly review what makes sense in terms of who is assigned vehicles bought and paid for by the taxpayers.

Having the state reimbursed for personal use of many of those vehicles makes sense, too.


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