By Arthur Kane | Watchdog.org
Last year, the Colorado Department of Personnel & Administration, in an attempt to improve the state fleet’s environmental friendliness, issued a policy that prevents most departments from buying all-wheel-drive sports utility vehicles.
Yet, Gov. John Hickenlooper and his family are still chauffeured around in two SUVs, which according to government figures get about 22 miles a gallon highway and 16 mpg in city driving in the six cylinder version. The mileage drops to 17 and 12 if the vehicles use E85 fuel, according to www.fueleconomy.gov.
The DPA policy exempts law enforcement vehicles from the SUV ban, and state officials argue that the governor’s SUVs are law enforcement because he, and his family, are driven around by state troopers.
GAS GUZZLER: One of two vehicles the Colorado State Patrols uses to drive around the governor and his family.
“Those are public safety vehicles,” said DPA spokeswoman Sabrina D’Agosta. “The governor does not choose the type of vehicles, and the SUVs are driven by law enforcement agents.”
But Gregory Golyansky, president of the Colorado Union of Taxpayers, said the governor should be setting an example if he and his cabinet are pushing for green vehicles.
“This governor is a proponent of all kinds of green fantasies,” he said. “If they are so useful, the government wouldn’t have to require departments to buy them.”
The Dec. 9, 2013, vehicle ordering instructions has a section titled “Additional Greening State Government Guidelines to follow.” The section restricts “the purchase of four-wheel drive sport utility vehicles (SUV), except where necessary for law enforcement, emergency response, highway maintenance and construction or use in difficult terrain.” All SUVs require the approval of the executive director, but state patrol refused to comment on the governor’s SUVs, citing security concerns, and directed all questions to the governor’s office.
Hickenlooper did not answer questions about his SUVs after an unrelated news conference last month.
But records obtained under state open records laws show the two vehicles labeled “sta wgn midsize 4X4” were purchased in 2011, before the no-SUV policy, for about $26,000 each. One is labeled “Governor’s Vehicle” in the state records and the other is “Governor’s Family Vehicle.”
Taxpayers paid nearly $12,000 since July 2012 to fill up the governor’s vehicle with gasoline almost exclusively and nearly $9,000 for the family vehicle in the same time period, records show. About 60,000 miles were placed on the governor’s vehicle and 42,000 on the family vehicle in the past two fiscal years, records show.
Hickenlooper staff refused to provide the make and model of the two vehicles, but Hickenlooper arrived at a recent event in the Chevy Equinox.
“For security reasons, Colorado State Patrol has not authorized us to release publicly the make and model of the Governor’s vehicles,” wrote Ben Figa, Hickenlooper’s deputy legal counsel.
HYPOCRISY CRITIC: Colorado Union of Taxpayers president Gregory Golyansky says Hickenlooper should set an example on green vehicles.
Despite the records saying the vehicle is a station wagon, Consumer Reports, JD Power and Edmunds list the Equinox as a mid-size SUV.
Hickenlooper is not unique in having a personal vehicle and a family vehicle. Those were provided to past governors for security purposes. But his administration set a policy banning the purchase of SUVs for most departments.
“It’s an act of hypocrisy,” Golyansky said. “It’s not the first from this governor and not the last.”
But D’Agosta said Hickenlooper is trying to be more fuel efficient that previous governors.
“He’s the first governor to use a mid-sized SUV,” she said. “All previous governors had Suburbans and fueling costs were twice as much.”