Blakeslee's car perk drives some buyer’s remorse

The "Bordeaux red" 2011 Lincoln MKZ Hybrid, with heated leather seats and a $39,975 price tag, wasn’t intended to be an airport taxi.

Taxpayers bought the car last year to serve as state Sen. Sam Blakeslee’s full-time ride — a perk granted to California lawmakers at public expense.

But the San Luis Obispo Republican soon had a change of heart. With many Californians hurting during a tough economy, his office tried to cancel the request.

According to state records and interviews, the local dealership scoffed. So Gregory Schmidt, the Senate’s top administrator in charge of the car program, folded the Lincoln into the small fleet that shuttles legislators back and forth to the airport.

"It’s kind of annoying that this even occurred," he said.

As of this spring, about 80 of the Legislature’s 120 members were taking advantage of the program. But Blakeslee’s decision not to take delivery of the car was unusual. It also meant that his $197.21-share of the monthly payments was going unpaid. Taxpayers were footing the rest of the bill.

After being asked about the situation by The Times, Blakeslee’s office said he had decided to pay his portion each month going forward, and $986.05 retroactively. Read more at latimes.com »

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