Last week the Senate voted to override a Governor’s veto on SB 2244, which the House did not agree with, so the bill did end up getting vetoed. It is interesting how a simple issue creates so much debate. The big question was, are fees considered a tax increase or not?
By Senator Don Schaible
SB 2244 was a bill proposing a $15 increase in driver’s license renewal fees. Spread out over the six-year life of a driver’s license, this equates toan increase of $2.50 per year. Although many people have called this a tax increase, the fact remains, this is a fee for a service provided by the Department of Motor Vehicles. The fee, set in 1987, has not changed in 32 years and ranks as the lowest in eight surrounding states.
As it stands, the driver’s license division of the DMV generates $10 million per biennium while their costs are $15 million. This $5 million difference is currently beingmade upby funds that would normally go toward maintaining our state and local highway systems. These highways play an essential role in our state’s infrastructure and many of our top industriessuch as energy, agriculture and tourism. Additionally, it is estimated that the miles of state roads currently in poor condition will double between 2018 and 2021 making it more important now than ever to ensure we can properly fund necessary repairs.
There are over 8 separate bills and many sections of budgets that suggest fee increases for a variety of services, some of these included in the Governor’s Budget requests. It is funning how one fee is labeled a tax increase and another one is not. I would have to say, I fall in the category that believes that a charged for services should not be used to generate profit but should charge enough that should cover the cost of that service. Fees are charged only to the people that are using that service and this charge should not be supplemented by other tax payers to make up that difference. Of course, there are many opinions on this and as it turns out driver’s license fees are label a tax increase.
A former Senator friend once told me, “ this job will make a hypocrite out of anyone” and he was a wise person. With about 2 weeks left of this session, much of the negotiations is still to come. We will try to keep you informed and as always, we would love to hear your concerns and thoughts.