Measure would end driving service for state officials

Only governor, lieutenant governor would keep tax-supported benefit

February 10, 2010|By Annie Linskey |

House Republican leader Anthony J. O'Donnell wants to strip all but the state's two top officials of their drivers, calling the benefit a "fat-cat" service that should be eliminated in harsh budget times.

"Cities are hurting," O'Donnell said. "Families can't pay bills. Small-business owners are going bankrupt. It is about how we spend resources and how the elected political classes in Maryland service themselves."

State troopers provide security - including driving - for the attorney general, the comptroller, the treasurer, the House speaker and the Senate president. O'Donnell's bill would eliminate that service for those officials and would also bar department heads, their deputies and judges from having state workers to drive them to appointments.

"These guys are getting fat-cat services being driven around," O'Donnell said. The legislation exempts the governor and the lieutenant governor.

The legislation was first introduced last year and has almost zero chance of passing in this session as both presiding officers in the General Assembly believe it is unnecessary. Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller and Speaker Michael E. Busch said the legislation is an election-year ploy.

The bill would save $8,400, according to an analysis by the General Assembly's Department of Legislative Services. O'Donnell says the figure is inaccurate. "It doesn't pass the laugh test," he said.

The analysis shows that individual officers are not assigned full-time driving duties to the officials the legislation targets. And for the department heads, according to the analysis, a staff member with other duties frequently provides part-time driving services.

Busch said that he rarely uses state troopers as drivers, but said they have had to "step up" on occasion at events where debates have become heated. "It is precautionary," he said. "I don't see any indication that it has been abused over the years."

Miller defended the practice for top state officials. He said they frequently work long hours and travel to remote parts of the state, and their time is better spent working during the trips.

Proponents of the bill, he said, are "penny-wise and pound-foolish."

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