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Dont cry for state lawmakers losing free cars
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Jerry Springer isn’t the only unbelievable TV on the tube these days.

Ranking right up with Springer’s’ guests were the remarks by some California lawmakers on news casts about how unfair it was that they were going to lose their free cars and ultimated gas cards later this year.

Actually they weren’t stupid enough to say it was unfair but they did try to frame the argument by saying they couldn’t understand why everyone was making lawmakers out the bad guys in the budget mess and punishing them accordingly.

That is kind of like Typhoid Mary arguing she wasn’t responsible for additional deaths and illnesses after leaving quarantine and returning to work as a cook even though she signed an affidavit that she wouldn’t work around food served to other people.

Shannon Murphy, who is the spokesperson for Assembly Speaker John Perez, D- Los Angeles, told a reporter that eliminating the car perk seemed “punitive” given the fact the Citizens Compensation Commission had already slashed legislators’ pay by 18 percent and cut their benefits by 8 percent. She pointed out that was a 26 percent reduction compared to roughly 15 percent for most state workers.

Before anyone starts getting teary-eyed for poor state legislators consider their overall compensation.

For starters, most lawmakers make $95,291 a year with the so-called leaders making a bit more.

They will still get a $300 a month fuel allowance plus a tax-free stipend of $141.80 for every day the legislature is in session.

Perhaps not having unlimited free gas on a reduced income might make them think a bit more about their reactions the next time Big Oil comes around with campaign donations to lobby for big tax breaks. Gee, they might even see a cause and effect between high prices and the economic well-being of a family or a business if they have to deal with paying for gas beyond $300 a month on a reduced income.

If they bother to drive a fuel efficient car like many have been forced to do to survive they could get at least 2,100 miles a month of “free” travel when it comes to gas.  Yes, they may have to curb travel in their districts but then they’d face the same choices the people they represent do every day as they struggle to keep their families or businesses afloat.

But all is not lost. They can recoup a part of their out-of-pocket gas money for business purposes by using the Byzantine tax code. You know the one. It allows you to deduct - not take a tax credit like the big guys such as Twitter and General Electric get courtesy of lawmakers - equal to 25 percent of the actual gas expense you incur. You can do that as long as your unreimbursed business expenses are a certain percentage of your income. Maybe going through that exercise a couple of times will prompt them to reform the tax code.

Let’s not forget the tax-free $141.80 per diem.

In reality it is roughly $180 a day that they are receiving because they are not paying taxes on it. If the legislature is in session 20 days a month, that puts the equivalent of $3,600 in their pockets. Some lawmakers will whine about maintaining two homes. Here’s a new flash. You can rent an apartment in Sacramento for under $1,500 a month. Toss in utilities and perhaps you’re talking a $1,800 a month expense. Quite frankly, I don’t care if they have to pay for their own food when they are working. The rest of us do. So if you look at it that way they are getting $1,800 extra a month that they could put toward buying gas. At $4 a gallon that would buy 450 gallons of gas. And if they drove a fuel efficient car that averages 28 miles a gallon, that means they can go another 12,600 miles on top of the 2,100 miles from their $300 a month in free gas.

That comes to 13,700 miles a month of driving. Assuming everywhere they drive they can go 60 mph from start to finish they’d be on the road for 228 hours a month or 9.5 days behind the wheel.

Obviously they have the income wherewithal to more than make ends meet with solid budgeting skills which they obviously don’t posses given the dismal state of California’s budget.

As far as it seeming “punitive,” they should ask Californians how it feels to be a taxpayer at the mercy of Sacramento.