Clout: Guv ditches Ed's tour bus, plugs 66G into budget hole

GOV. CORBETT has been in office for just 10 weeks and, like many politicians who inherit a financial mess, he likes to blame the man he replaced.

It's fair game: Gov. Ed Rendell was the top guy in the state for eight years, while the deficit grew to troubling proportions.

But Corbett yesterday took what looks like a cheap shot - $66,462 in savings! - when you consider that the state's proposed budget is $27.3 billion.

Corbett's staff emailed reporters to announce that the "defunct tour bus," known as "Commonwealth One" when Rendell took office, will be auctioned off in May or June.

Corbett derided the 20-year-old bus as a "white elephant" that has cost the state $66,462 to maintain since 2003 while being driven only 25,937 miles. Corbett added that his budget priorities do not "include maintaining a 41-foot motor coach that has largely sat in the garage."

It adds up. That's $2.56 per mile in maintenance or $9,495 per year for seven years.

Rendell yesterday said he didn't want to get into a debate with Corbett but noted that using the bus reduced the amount of time he spent traveling on a $5 million state plane, which cost $808 an hour to operate in 2003.

To be fair, Commonwealth One did have a troubled start in state service. Rendell hoped to put it on Pennsylvania's highways and byways as he traveled around pitching his first budget, dubbed the "Plan for a New Pennsylvania."

But the bus was late on arrival, and rumors swirled that it had already broken down.

Rendell's staff insisted the problem was in paperwork - who would own the bus, who would maintain it and who would insure it? The bus was finally added to the state fleet. Then it became clear that the bus, which had been donated to the state, had significant mechanical problems.

So now we wave goodbye to Commonwealth One.

And Corbett has found a way to fill .00166 percent of the state's $4 billion budget gap.

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Have a news tip? Gossip? Suggestion? Call Chris Brennan at 215-854-5973 or Catherine Lucey at 215-854-4712. Or e-mail phillyclout@phillynews.com.