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November 14. 2012 8:05PM

Non-business use of state vehicles down

CONCORD - The number of state-owned vehicles used for non-business purposes has dropped substantially from a year ago, according to a report accepted by the Executive Council on Wednesday.

The report from Department of Administrative Services Commissioner Linda Hodgdon indicates that 131 of the state's 1,816 vehicles were used more than 20 percent of the time for non-state business for a total of 875,159 miles.

The agency's first report a year ago on the non-business use of state vehicles indicated 233 of the state's 1,884 vehicles were used for non-state business more than 15 percent of the time. The non-business use totaled 1.5 million miles.

Since the earlier report, lawmakers set the non-business use limit at 20 percent before the use comes under scrutiny.

Hodgdon notes that if the 15 percent threshold were still in place, about 190 vehicles would have exceeded the limit totaling about 1 million miles.

"As data became available, agencies tried to increase efficiencies," Hodgdon wrote to the councilors. "Agencies revised utilization policies, reassigned vehicles and created 'fleet pools.' These efforts, in conjunction with the redistributions enacted after the fiscal year 2011 review, have resulted in a significant decrease in non-business use."

After the first report, 14 vehicles were taken away from agencies and reassigned to the state's auto pool. Many of those vehicles belonged to department commissioners, including liquor commissioners.

This year, two of the 131 vehicles that exceeded 20 percent for non-business use were taken from departments and reassigned. The two vehicles belonged to the Department of Resources and Economic Development and the Veterans Home.

After years of discussions, lawmakers in 2010 passed Senate Bill 402 to cut departments' vehicle budgets and standardize vehicle use policy across state departments. That bill also required Administrative Services to track the non-business use of state vehicles.

This past session, the House and Senate failed to agree on a bill that would have charged state employees for the non-business use of state vehicles.

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Garry Rayno may be reached at grayno@unionleader.com.

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