Saturday, August 29, 2009

SACRAMENTO, Calif. | Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger is hoping that the “Great California Garage Sale” will turn government clutter such as surplus prison uniforms and office furniture into cash to bulk up the state’s depleted coffers.

Being offered as the state clears out clutter are nearly 600 state-owned vehicles and thousands of pieces of office furniture, computers, electronics, jewelry, pianos, even a surfboard and an Xbox 360 gaming system.

The Republican governor and other state officials estimate that the giant two-day yard sale being held at a state warehouse will bring in hundreds of thousands of dollars. In addition to clearing out office products, the state is also selling unclaimed property from state parks and items confiscated by law enforcement, said California Department of General Services spokesman Eric Lamoureux.

The prison department contributed dental chairs and surplus prison shirts and jeans.

“This is a win-win for the state and for shoppers,” Mr. Schwarzenegger said, announcing that a selection of items also would be sold on eBay and Craigslist. “Together we are eliminating waste and providing great deals in this tough economy.”

The movie star-turned-governor/pitchman also has autographed 15 car visors in an effort to fetch more money during the sale that ends on Saturday.

California sure could use the cash: The state was forced to hand out IOUs earlier this year, government workers are on the brink of revolt over a 14 percent pay cut, and the state remains in an interminable state of financial morass.

Talk show host Jimmy Kimmel recently spoofed the upcoming garage sale, saying the governor was so desperate he was selling everything from a set of burned dumbbells for $10 to a pair of California first lady Maria Shriver’s leg-warmers for $8.

The idea for a garage sale came from state employees and was put into motion by Mr. Schwarzenegger through an executive order earlier this year. At the time, the state was struggling with a projected $26 billion deficit.

After signing the order to reduce the state’s 40,000 government vehicles by 15 percent, Mr. Schwarzenegger posted a video message thanking his Twitter followers for their budget-balancing ideas, including one follower’s suggestion to autograph state-owned vehicles being put up for auction.

According to the Department of General Services, all the cars are in working condition and generally have over 100,000 miles. They include pickup trucks, sedans and former California Highway Patrol motorcycles and patrol cars.

Early shoppers walked between rows of cars Friday morning, opening doors and getting inside to inspect the interiors during Thursday’s preview. They took notes on the cars they liked and eyed the competition with suspicion.

Akili Daniels, 32, of Sacramento, said he was worried about used-car dealers scooping up the best vehicles. Mr. Daniels, who was looking for a sedan or SUV to launch his own video production company after being laid off, said he’s hoping to get a vehicle for under $5,000.

He was also looking for a van for his wife’s new day-care venture.

“It’s good if we can get it for a good price,” he said. “It helps for people who can’t buy new cars.”

Other items up for grabs will be sold at set prices. For example, used BlackBerry cell phones are going for $25 each. Wooden desks are going for $30. Eight stackable chairs are priced at $40. And laptop computers cost $200. Just like any yard sale, the items are being sold on a first-come, first-serve basis.

And of course, all sales are final.

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