Last week the Senate voted to override a governor's veto on Senate Bill 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?
SB2244 proposed a $15 increase in driver's license renewal fees. Spread out over the six-year life of a driver's license, this equates to an 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 its costs are $15 million. This $5 million difference is being made up by 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 industries such as energy, agriculture and tourism. Additionally, it is estimated that the miles of state roads 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 eight 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 interesting how one fee is labeled a tax increase and another is not. I would have to say I fall in the category that believes that a charge for services should not be used to generate profit but should be enough to cover the cost of that service. Fees are charged only to the people who are using that service and this charge should not be supplemented by other taxpayers to make up that difference. Of course, there are many opinions on this and as it turns out driver's license fees are labeled 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 two weeks left of this session, much of the negotiation is still to come.