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Gov wavers on wheels

Gov. Corbett has trumpeted the idea of "shared sacrifice" - that the pain of the multi-billion deficit must be balanced. But a closer look at spending in the governor's own office are seeing more than little irony in that line.

On the campaign trail last year gubernatorial candidate Tom Corbett blasted the high number of state vehicles, pledging to trim the fleet as part of his cost-cutting measures.

At a press event several months ago, Gov. Corbett announced he was off-loading the state bus that Gov. Rendell had used to travel around the Commonwealth - getting a dig at his predecessor for wasting gas and money keeping the trouble-plagued bus on the road.

Now the Patriot-New of Harrisburg reports the Corbett administration has picked up four new gas-guzzling rides for the governor, lieutenant governor and their wives at a cost of $187,400.

According to the Patriot story:

State police Commissioner Frank Noonan said it was his call to buy the 2011 Chevrolet Suburbans for the governor and lieutenant governor. Each cost $53,000.

"I talked to our protective unit detail out there, and I also contacted other state police organizations that provide protection to see what the standard is and that's pretty much the standard," Noonan said.

He said that fuel economy was considered, but that safety was the primary factor behind his decision.

The state police also purchased two Chevy Traverses to transport the governor and lieutenant governor's wives. Each Traverse cost $40,000.

It got rid of three vehicles, with more than 100,000 miles on them, when the four new ones were bought, said state police spokesman Jack Lewis.

As backups, they kept a 2008 Suburban and a 2010 Cadillac that Rendell had leased at a cost to the state of $879 a month, according to the state Department of General Services. The state is looking to buy that Cadillac.

Sen. Mike Folmer, R-Lebanon County, who is championing legislation to increase state vehicle accountability, was taken aback by the Cadillac's lease price amount. He said he considered it excessive "due to the fact I drive a [2007] Honda Civic," and he pays for his own gas.

Other lawmakers and state employees find it disturbing that any new vehicles were purchased, given the governor's rants about the vehicle fleet from the campaign trail.

Besides that, a moratorium on new vehicles put in place in 2008 remains in effect. Troy Thompson, a General Services spokesman, said exceptions to that policy are made when agencies justify the need.

Noonan said his justification was the high mileage and the frequent breakdowns of the older vehicles.

"I'm charged with the security of the governor and lieutenant governor ... and it was something that I couldn't tolerate as far as the safety factor was concerned with [the executive protection] detail," Noonan said.

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