TRENTON – Legislation sponsored by Senator Jeff Van Drew to establish a task force to study the feasibility and cost benefit of reducing the number of vehicles in state government over five years was approved today by the Senate Community and Urban Affairs Committee.
“With our state experiencing a challenging fiscal climate, it is incumbent upon us to continue to find cost-cutting initiatives within government. One way to do that is to look at the usage of taxpayer-funded vehicles by state employees and to ensure they are necessary to the jobs for which they are being utilized,” said Senator `Van Drew (D-Cape May, Atlantic and Cumberland). “We should also be considering all options available to us to reduce costs, including vehicle sharing and leasing. This task force will conduct a comprehensive analysis of the state’s vehicle program to determine how best to reduce the cost of our operations.”
According to the most recent count, the state fleet totals 9,018 vehicles. The bill (S-2269) would establish the State Vehicle Reduction Task Force, which would be required to analyze how to reduce the state vehicle fleet through a number of mechanisms, including sharing vehicles within departments, evaluating whether leasing vehicles is a financially viable option, and studying what other states have done to successfully reduce their fleet. It would also review how often vehicles within the fleet are used, how many people take the vehicles home and if that procedure is necessary. In addition, the task force would be required to analyze the criteria for the duties and the requirements of the position requiring a state vehicle, the funding source for the vehicle, the existence of other substantially similar positions that are assigned a vehicle, and the essential nature of the vehicle.
“This legislation is not intended to prevent individuals who require a vehicle from performing their jobs. It is aimed at increasing efficiency and accountability within our state vehicle fleet program and potentially reducing its cost to the state and to taxpayers,” said Senator Van Drew. “Examining which positions are assigned vehicles and whether they are absolutely necessary to the job at hand is a practice that should be taking place regularly. We should also continuously be looking at smarter and more efficient ways of operating the program. This will help to decrease the potential for waste and abuse, and will also help to improve state tracking of vehicles that are used for legitimate purposes.”
The task force would be comprised of seven members: the state Treasurer, the commissioners of the three state departments with the most vehicle usage, two public members (one each appointed with the recommendation of the Senate President and Assembly Speaker) and a representative of organized labor appointed by the Governor. The Department of the Treasury would be required to implement the recommendations of the task force, which would have to be implemented over a five-year period beginning with the first fiscal year that commences after the task force submits their recommendations. The task force would expire upon the submission of its recommendations to the Governor and the Legislature.
The bill includes a provision exempting certain public entities and divisions within the state, including the Division of State Police and the Division of Gaming Enforcement, from the task force review.
The committee approved the measure by a vote of 5-0. It now heads to the full Senate for a vote.