State taxpayers shelled out more than $2,000 in fees for the first month of a rental car used by Gov.-Elect Scott Walker.
A receipt provided to Isthmus by the state Department of Transportation shows that, between Nov. 5, 2010, at 4:44 p.m., three days after the election, and Dec. 5, 2010, at 4:29 p.m., the car, a 2011 GMC Yukon XL, was driven 5,288 miles.
As previously reported ("Scott Walker's Rockin' New Ride," 12/14/10), an agreement between the state and Enterprise Rent-A-Car calls for payment of $1,596.50 per month for up to 3,000 miles, plus 20 cents for every additional mile. The receipt provided to Isthmus shows the state was billed $2,054.10 for this first month of use, which conforms to this equation.
The receipt also shows that the Yukon XL had just 212 "start miles" when it was leased for Walker's use. It's a brand new car.
The agreement as reported in Isthmus made news throughout the state, given Walker's promises to usher in a new era of austerity in Wisconsin government. As a candidate, Walker ran TV ads touting his frugality when it comes to personal transportation.
"I pack a brown bag lunch and drive my 1998 Saturn with over 100,000 miles to cut costs, and think government should do the same," Walker said in the ad. "That's what my 'Brown Bag Guide to Government' is all about."
Brett Hulsey, a Democrat from Madison who will be sworn in next week as a member of the state Assembly, says these disclosures seem not in keeping with Walker's "brown-bag image." And he wonders how Walker managed to record so much mileage even before becoming governor.
"Where on earth was he driving to?" asks Hulsey. "That's like driving from New York to L.A. and then back to Denver. I thought he lived in Milwaukee and his new job is in Madison. That's 90 miles. [Actually more like 75.]
"Clearly, we need a high speed rail to help Scott Walker save money on his car payment."
On Wednesday afternoon, Isthmus sent two email messages to Walker transition spokesperson Cullen Werwie. (A person who answered the phone at Walker's transition office says Werwie checks his email messages "every other minute.")
Isthmus asked two questions: Whether Gov.-Elect Walker traveled 5,288 miles in this vehicle during this one-month period or whether it was used for trips in which he was not a passenger or driver. It also asked for information on how the governor-elect managed to rack up 5,288 miles in one month. That's 170 miles a day -- or more than half what a person with a 1998 car with 100,000 miles travels in an entire year.
Werwie responded by email Wednesday afternoon, saying "I won't be able to track you down an answer to your questions today. When is your deadline?" He was told the item would be posted today, preferably in the morning, and asked how much time he needed.
He responded to this as follows: "I won't be able to look at the mileage on his car before tomorrow." This is of course a complete non sequitur, as neither question requires him to check the car's mileage. This was pointed out to Werwie in a response email early Thursday morning, to which he has not yet responded.
Earlier, Werwie ignored inquiries from Isthmus about the leased GMC Yukon XL but told the Associated Press that the car was selected not by Walker but by the state's security staff "based on the Department of Administration's procedures and existing state contracts." The state DOA also noted, and Isthmus reported, that this vehicle was chosen by the security staff, not Walker.
Werwie also told the AP that no decision had been made on what state vehicle Walker would use beyond the initial short-term lease for the GMC Yukon XL. The state has said it signed a 60-day lease with Enterprise; if the lease began on Nov. 5, as the receipt suggests, that means it will expire next Tuesday, Jan. 4.
According to the state Department of Administration, Gov. Jim Doyle uses two vehicles: a state-owned 2005 Buick Park Avenue, which the state bought for $17,000 after leasing it for three years; and a leased 2010 Chevrolet Suburban, which costs the state $935 per month, regardless of how many miles it is driven.