SALEM - As the State of Oregon deals with a multi-million dollar budget crisis, its governor is given a new set of wheels. The question some are asking regarding the purchase is: How do the new vehicles fit in with Kulongoski's promise to help the state live within its means?
The answer Salem has provided is: The governor needed the vehicles for security and safety, especially the big SUV his protection staff is buying.
The purchases come when the state is so far in the red the treasurer remarks that he is worried about the budget.
They come in a state where the disabled are refused state funds for the repair of their wheelchairs.
Officials of Governor Kulongoski's office explained the lease was ending on the existing auto the former governor used. That auto had around 20,000 miles.
So instead of purchasing that car they traded it in on a new Lincoln Towncar, which is being leased through Ford.
But the spending doesn't end there; the governor's office and the state officers who protect him said they were without a big SUV to help protect the governor.
To fix that problem, they purchased an additional vehicle.
The state police protection unit, the bodyguards for the governor, requested the SUV backup vehicle for traveling with the governor and they picked out a Chevrolet Tahoe.
At present the SUV the governor will ride in has not arrived yet, it's being outfitted with radios and a safety packages.
"This is about as nice as it gets," said one salesman about the Tahoe.
KATU took a test drive at a local dealership and found that among America's SUV's, the Tahoe is one of the more luxurious.
The governor's Tahoe will cost about $31,000 for the vehicle alone.
"It doesn't make sense," said Jason Williams. "We're taxpayers not ATM machines."
Government watchdog Jason Williams said the purchases prove the governor is going about business as usual in Salem.
State troopers who tipped KATU to the story said they were upset when they couldn't get replacements for their patrol cars that are showing 120,000 and 130,000 miles.
KATU attempted to ask the governor about the discrepancy Wednesday, but staffers whisked him aside when asked about the new Tahoe, saying it was a purchase by the state police.
"If the person at the very top of our government, our CEO is out there buying new cars at a time when we're having our worst recession means he's not looking at the bottom line," said Williams.
At least with the new SUV, the governor will ride softly over Oregon's potholes.
Kulongoski's spokespeople said that the SUV is not his vehicle but the one his protection staff picked out for him and that he didn't have a choice in the matter.