PHOENIX — Arizona lawmakers want to know whether every employee who has a state-issued car actually needs one.
State senators are on the verge of approving legislation that would require all state agencies to go through their records and determine if they need all their vehicles. The goal is to cut the fleet size by 10 percent, said Rep. Jeff Weninger, R-Chandler.
That would be a significant dent, as the most recent report shows the state owns more than 10,500 vehicles (not including another 1,200 operated by the three universities).
Not only does the state have to buy expensive new cars and trucks when the old ones wear out, Weninger said, there’s also the cost of operating them.
Overall, the average vehicle uses $1,266 in fuel each year, says the state Department of Administration, which manages the fleet. There’s another $819 in maintenance.
The legislation, HB 2440, does more than set the goal of a 10 percent fleet reduction. It requires the Department of Administration to try to reduce use of state-owned vehicles by finding other ways to get people around, such as renting cars as needed but also using rideshare services like Uber and Lyft.
Weninger said the goal is achievable, citing his own experience when he was on the Chandler City Council. “When the recession hit, we looked at our fleet. We found a lot of vehicles that were severely underutilized.”
For example, he said there were city employees who were assigned vehicles full-time, even though “they drove two times a week for three hours each day.” The system was revamped so that such employees would check out a car on an as-needed basis.
On the state level, too, “Overall, I’m convinced that we have too many vehicles and we could get by with less,” Weninger said.
He conceded that the 10 percent figure is arbitrary, but said he’s been flexible. His original measure mandated a 20 percent reduction in vehicles for each agency. That got cut to 15 percent during debate.
And the 10 percent figure in the measure awaiting final Senate approval remains only a goal, not a mandate. He said that ensures agencies get credit for the moves they’ve already made.
The 10 percent goal is across the board, meaning some agencies might escape with smaller cuts while others shed more vehicles.
“It’s a far cry from where I started,” Weninger said.
About the only opposition to the legislation came from Sen. Steve Farley, D-Tucson. Farley said he’s not opposed to what Weninger wants to do, but finds it too narrow. He sought to add a requirement for the Department of Administration to also look at public transit.
“It would be a lot cheaper if there was a convenient way for state employees to get from one place to another on the bus or on the light rail,” Farley said. “It’s going to be a lot cheaper than even an Uber.”
Farley was unsuccessful in attaching the amendment during Senate floor debate, but Weninger said the public-transit goal isn’t precluded.
“If the Governor’s Office and ... different departments see that they’re along the light rail system and they could jump on and go down Central Avenue and go to an appointment” they can, Weninger said.
He said he’s not trying to do anything to state employees that he would not apply in the real world. “It’s what I do in my restaurant business,” said Weninger, part owner of a firm that runs Dilly’s Deli and Floridino’s Pizza and Pasta. “If I can save two seconds on a transaction, I’m like a geek and I’m excited about that,” he said.
He said his next target will be the amount of heavy equipment owned by not just the state but also local governments.
“Why does Mesa need to buy a $300,000 or $500,000 earthmover and Chandler buys one and Tempe buys one, and they all use them 20 or 30 days a year?” he asked.
“It just seems insane to me.”