RALEIGH, N.C. — Taxpayers are footing the bill when it comes to filling up the gas tanks for state-owned vehicles.
State Motor Fleet manager John Massey said every state agency is paying the same mileage rate for gas they did last summer. The rate is based on the previous year's price average. If the rate needs to go up or down, it happens on July 1 when gas could pull the state's budget belt tighter.
If regular unleaded gas hits $2, Massey said it will cost the state an additional $1 million to provide the same travel they provided for 2003-04. However, it will still be 42 cents per gallon less than everyone else pays.
"The state doesn't charge itself taxes," Massey said.
The money pays not only for gas, but also repairs, maintenance and insurance. To cut costs, the state bought 10 more electric/gas hybrid cars. They have 39 in all.
Newer models get up to 55 miles per gallon, but the greatest cost cutter may be the time of year. As the budget year ends, state agencies see their money runnng out.
"If the end of the year is coming down, and they are about to run out of travel money, naturally they quit using the car," Massey said.
State Motor Fleet may continue to increase the number of hybrid cars. Most on the market are small compacts, which are not suitable for the needs of many agencies, like the state Department of Correction, who use many large vans.