California holds garage sale to pay down debt
The cash-strapped state of California is holding a massive two-day garage sale to get rid of cars, computers, prison gear and anything else deemed surplus and beef up empty coffers in the process.
Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger came up with the idea of the "Great California Garage Sale" after slashing the government car fleet by 15 per cent. He's since become the garage sale's biggest promoter, holding news conferences, discussing it in web chats and Tweeting about it to followers.
"Welcome to our garage sale,'' Schwarzenegger told reporters during a warehouse tour in Sacramento Friday morning. "As you know, we're trying to raise some extra money here, getting rid of the old stuff we don't use anymore.''
Some items could be bought at the warehouse while others were available online on eBay and Craigslist.
The sale raised $1 million US in its first day and continues Saturday, with some items set to stay up on eBay until early September.
Thousands of potential buyers began lining up at 5 a.m. Friday in hopes of snagging some of the ridiculously cheap goods:
- $5 surplus jeans and shirts from the Department of Corrections
- $25 BlackBerry cellphones
- $30 wood desks
- $200 laptop computers
California used the governor's celebrity to boost prices any way they could, with Schwarzenegger signing various items to give them added Hollywood sheen. Anyone who ever wanted to own something signed by the "Terminator" need not look further. His signature could be found on car visors, motorcycles and clothing.
A leather jacket he signed was going for $1,775 on eBay Saturday morning, with bidding ending Sept. 4. Schwarzenegger said he was hoping the jacket would get more because another one that he once signed had been sold for $30,000.
Also on the shopping block is $731,000 worth of vehicles, $237,000 in warehouse items and $58,000 worth of items on eBay. Some items were even put up on Craigslist.
At the warehouse, people could buy, for instance, a 2004 Ford Crown Victoria for $2,100 or a 2005 Dodge Durango 4X4 for $3,300. There are 600 cars in all, almost half sold the first day.
California needs to raise the cash to help ease a budgetary crisis brought on by the recession, the housing market collapse and legislative gridlock in Sacramento, the state capital. The state faced a massive $26-billion deficit, and had to resort to using I.O.U.s this summer to pay taxpayers, vendors and contractors.
This week, the rating agency Fitch put California's general obligation debt at just two notches above speculative, or "junk" status but said the state's outlook was stable.
The rating move came after state officials passed a historic and austere budget pact last month that saw $15.6 billion in cuts to services and forced state workers to take three unpaid days off each month.
With files from The Associated Press