WRAL Investigates

Budget reform panel eyes motor fleet, ABC system

Posted March 10, 2010 5:19 p.m. EST
Updated March 11, 2010 9:52 a.m. EST

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— A panel organized by Gov. Beverly Perdue to locate waste and inefficiency in North Carolina government on Wednesday took aim at two issues uncovered last year by WRAL News investigations.

State agencies spend millions of dollars for vehicles that sit idle, WRAL Investigates reported in November. Agencies lease vehicles from the state Motor Fleet Management Division, which charges for a monthly minimum of 1,050 miles on each vehicle to cover maintenance, insurance and gas for more than 8,500 state-owned vehicles.

If vehicles are driven more than 1,050 miles in a month, the agency must pay extra. But agencies still must pay the minimum rate if cars travel less than 1,050 miles, which has happened increasingly over the past year as state travel expenses were cut to help with the record budget shortfall.

The Budget Reform and Accountability Commission on Thursday proposed changing the minimum mileage and the rates charged by the motor fleet so agencies don't overpay if they drive less.

The commission also looked at reforms to the state-run liquor system.

Another series of WRAL Investigates reports found some local Alcoholic Beverage Control administrators earning six-figure salaries, while others accepted perks from liquor manufacturers and distributors.

Jon Williams, chairman of the state ABC Commission, proposed to the reform panel that some local ABC boards be merged and that county governments be responsible for how those local boards operate. He also recommended allowing private retailers to sell liquor in areas where an ABC store wouldn't be profitable.

Local alcohol boards often operate with limited regulation, and tighter controls could mean standardized salaries, accounting and training.

Details of the proposed changes to the motor fleet and the ABC system still have to be hammered out by state lawmakers and Perdue.

The commission has received more than 400 budget-saving ideas already, and it is accepting more ideas from the public. There is no estimate so far on how much the state could save through recommended changes.