Wheeling and dealing: Governor’s bus going to auction

    Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Corbett is kicking “Commonwealth One” to the curb. He intends to auction off the tour bus Gov. Ed Rendell used to travel the state, pitching his budget plans, transportation initiatives and other legislative priorities.

    “It has required $66,000 just to maintain this bus,” said Corbett at a Tuesday morning Harrisburg news conference. “In 2008, this bus cost taxpayers $18.84 per mile. In 2009, it cost $19.93 per mile. Last year this bust cost us $25.99 per mile. …It has cost us $1,336 for batteries. We spent $550 having it towed. The taxpayers paid to have its windows tinted,” said Corbett. “This is one bus we can do without.”

    Speaking on an unrelated conference call, Rendell declined to weigh in on the sale, but pointed out the bus was donated, and not purchased, in 2003.

    “I hope it will make money, because it didn’t cost us anything to purchase it, so it will be a net gain,” he said.

    While Rendell didn’t leap to Commonwealth One’s defense–after three or four bus questions, he told reporters he refused to answer any more–some of his former staffers were quick to support the coach.

    “I think you have to keep this in context,” said former Rendell spokesman and self-described “bus-keteer” Chuck Ardo. “Was it expensive? Sure it was expensive. Does the governor have a responsibility to go out there and be seen, and listen to the people of the commonwealth? I think that’s clearly a responsibility the governor has. … [Rendell] went to more places that no other governor had gone before. They should have called the bus the Enterprise.”

    Corbett’s office claims Commonwealth One traveled just 26,000 miles during its eight-year lifespan. “This…represents everything wrong with state government,” he said. “It’s outdated, inefficient and broken down.”

    Rendell’s top policy adviser, Donna Cooper, disagreed. “I don’t think it represents what’s wrong with government. Because that bus took Ed Rendell and many members of his cabinet to every one of the 67 counties nearly every year,” she said. “Particularly in the rural counties, that bus represented the first time a governor or a cabinet secretary had ever been to their county and worked with them on those problems. So if Corbett thinks that represents a bad way to govern, then I think a lot of Pennsylvania’s counties are going to be more disappointed in this administration than they already are.”

    The bus goes to auction in May or June.

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