Doolittle’s hybrid vehicle lease one of the highest |

Doolittle’s hybrid vehicle lease one of the highest

GRASS VALLEY ” Rep. John Doolittle drives an SUV that is the sixth most expensive vehicle leased at taxpayers’ expense by a member of Congress, according to a published report.

However, Doolittle’s staff said the overall cost of the lease isn’t as high as it appears in the report.

A Knight-Ridder news service story reported Monday that 136 of the 435 members of the U.S. House have their vehicle leases paid for by taxpayers. Doolittle, a Republican from Roseville who represents this area in Congress, leases a Toyota Highlander Hybrid for $1,073.73 per month.

The priciest lease on the list belongs to Rep. Mike Ross (D-Arkansas), whose Ford Expedition costs $1,248.31 per month. Sue Myrick (R-North Carolina), who drives a Honda Accord, has the least expensive lease at $214 per month.

According to the report, the cost of the lease includes insurance, excess mileage charges, registration fees, fuel costs and the property tax during the time of the lease.

Rep. Doolittle’s spokesman Richard Robinson said most of the leases cited in the report are two-year leases while The 4th District congressman has a 17-month lease, which makes it more expensive on a monthly bases.

He also pointed out that Doolittle did not lease a vehicle for the seven months prior to acquiring the Highlander Hybrid.

“Ours is artificially higher than it would otherwise be,” he said, adding that if the Highlander’s lease were for two years, the payments would have been approximately $700.

“The (Highlander Hybrid) was not available until summer of 2005,” he said. “(Doolittle) wanted to lease a hybrid because he’s a strong believer in emerging technologies.”

Robinson said Doolittle bypassed less expensive hybrids such as the Toyota Prius or the Honda Accord Hybrid because he needs a larger, four-wheel drive vehicle for his duties as a congressman.

“Mr. Doolittle represents a geographically diverse district and when he visits mountain counties, he needs four-wheel drive,” he said. “For instance, when we travel to Alturas, we take quite a few staff members, and we don’t want to get stuck without four-wheel drive. We have to have a car that meets those needs.”

Charles Brown, who is seeking the Democratic nomination for Doolittle’s seat, criticized the congressman Monday for letting taxpayers pay for his vehicle.

“I knew Doolittle was taking district voters for a ride, but this is simply not right,” he said in a statement.

“I just don’t understand how he can be telling folks here to tighten their belts financially and then waste taxpayers’ money on luxury items.”

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