Sen. Al White introduces bill to cut late registration fees

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State Sen. Al White, R-Hayden.

— When the Colorado General Assembly convened Wednesday, state Sen. Al White wasted no time introducing a bill to repeal sections of a law known as FASTER that increased fees on late vehicle registrations.

The Hayden Republican’s Senate Bill 10-004 would repeal a mandatory $25 per month fine for late registrations, capped at $100, that went into effect July 1, 2009. White’s drafted legislation would reinstate the state’s previous system, which gave counties the option of charging a late registration fee of as much as $10. Increased late fines were just one provision of FASTER, which stands for Funding Advancement for Surface Tran­sportation and Economic Reco­very. The law was aimed at raising funds to invest in transportation infrastructure projects and roadway safety.

Rescinding the increased fines would entail passing up an estimated $19.4 million in revenue statewide for the 2010-11 fiscal year, according to a projection from the Colorado Legislative Council staff. But for White, who sees the increased fines as an “unintended consequence” of the FASTER legislation, the inequities of the current law outweigh the financial gains.

“If you’re registering a $50,000 Mercedes, a $100 late filing fee — when you’re paying hundreds to register that car already — the difference is not that much,” White said Friday. “But for lower-end value vehicles, of which we have a lot in rural Colorado, it is going to make a difference.”

Reverting to the old fine system also will mean passing up revenue for Routt County, which received more than $38,000 from the new late fee structure from July through December 2009. These funds, along with revenue for the county generated by other FASTER initiatives, go into the county’s Road and Bridge Department budget. At the end of 2009, that meant an additional $201,804 for things such as maintaining county roads and clearing snow.

Even with a funding bump, the department is short on funds, Routt County Finance Director Dan Strnad said. With a total Road and Bridge budget of $10.9 million for 2010, the county is about $500,000 behind on funding for infrastructure projects such as replacing roads and bridges, exactly the kind of initiatives FASTER fee increases were meant to fund.

When it comes to filling budgetary gaps, Strnad said, the late fine could come in handy, even after late registrants mend their ways to avoid the higher fees.

“Over time, I think you’re going to see late payment fees going down,” Strnad said. “But they are one way to get registration fees paid in a timely manner. From a budget perspective, it’s a good thing because you’ll have money coming in faster.”

The fact that residents will begin to pay their registration fees on time to avoid the late-payment penalty is evidence that the fine system is not a long-term path to curing budget woes, White said.

“When the bill originally passed, the projection was that there would be zero funding from penalties,” White said. He conceded that the unexpected revenue from the FASTER legislation will make it harder to gain support for his bill.

White isn’t alone in thinking the cost to residents outweighs any fiscal gains for Routt County from higher late fees.

Routt County Commissioner Doug Monger sees the less than $40,000 generated by the increased late fines in 2009 as a paltry contribution to a budget as large as the Road and Bridge Department’s.

“It’s too little reward for what it costs citizens,” he said. He added that the high fees are “a deterrent to driving safe vehicles and an incentive to not get a license. I would rather entice people to be legal.”

Comments

mtroach 4 years, 6 months ago

I still don't understand why this is being repealed! Pay on time or pay the price.

Why give up a funding source of:

"At the end of 2009, that meant an additional $201,804 for things such as maintaining county roads and clearing snow."

When :

With a total Road and Bridge budget of $10.9 million for 2010, the county is about $500,000 behind on funding for infrastructure projects such as replacing roads and bridges, exactly the kind of initiatives FASTER fee increases were meant to fund.

Seems to me that having a funding source that provides nearly half of the budget shortfall is a good thig, especally when it encourages people to pay what they owe on time.

My post from the dec31 The state politican then says:

“I think even if (the fee) stayed in place, revenues it raised would probably decline by 75 percent — so I don’t think it will be that much lost revenue in the long run,” he said.

Comeau seconded that no­­tion.

“There is some thinking that the fees will diminish as the public responds to the penalty by paying registration fees on time,” she wrote in a Wednesday e-mail.

Comeau's comments seem to point to the presence of the "thinking", I don't see where she supported the prediction that fees will diminish. If the fees diminish it shows me that the law is working, and people are getting the message that tags should be paid on time, and although there is "some thinking" that the fee revenue will deminish, currently there is no evidence that this will happen. For all we know fee revenue will remain constant.

How do we get here:

"My argument is we never anticipated raising any revenue from there, so how can we miss what we never anticipated receiving in the first place?” he said Wednesday,

and then facts about the revenue this from the clerk:

Routt County Clerk and Re­­corder Kay Weinland and county Accounting Manager Carol Comeau said the county collected $120,385 in late vehicle registration fees from July 1 to Dec. 1. Of that amount, $90,925 went to the state, and the county retained $29,460. The county collected $446,365 in additional FASTER-related fees in that time, Comeau said, and has retained a total of $190,097 in FASTER-related revenues.

While :

CDOT plans to leave nearly 2,800 miles of rural state highways — carrying 1,000 or fewer vehicles per day —unplowed from 7 p.m. to 5 a.m. this winter. White said the plowing debate is symptomatic of CDOT’s financial troubles.

I'm sorry but I like the near $200,000 in revenue the county has collected for transportation from FASTER, and think that Mr. White should rethink his plan to remove this revenue source. Even if the fees went down 75% as White estimates, we could still recieve near $50,000, for transportation, not much in the road building world, but it would pay the salary for a plow driver, and provide some revenue for our cash strapped counties.

January 1, 2010 at 9:44 a.m. ( permalink | suggest removal )

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mtroach 4 years, 6 months ago

Monger says:" “a deterrent to driving safe vehicles and an incentive to not get a license. I would rather entice people to be legal.”

Are we going to repeal speeding penalties and start to reward those that don't get caught speeding? I would entice people to be legal by giving them a reason to pay on time, LATE FEES!

If this bill is too hard on ag. users or others that need many registered veh. to do their work, let's get a exemption for those users rather than taking away the only enticement for paying on time.

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Scott Wedel 4 years, 6 months ago

The late fees on an inexpensive vehicle could easily represent a 100% penalty for being late.

If that is fair then change the fee amount from $25 dollars to 25% per month. That will give equal incentive to all to avoid late registrations.

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Alan Geye 4 years, 6 months ago

Give me a break! When will we just acknowledge that EVERYONE has a personal responsibility to pay his or her taxes ON TIME. If he or she does not, everyone should be subjected to the same penalty regardless of his or her financial position. Period. We need to stress that everyone is RESPONSIBLE for his or her participation in this government; it's not a sliding scale. We may want to discuss making the process of paying easier, perhaps by using the Internet, perhaps the use of email reminders, but if one is late he's late.

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Troutguy 4 years, 6 months ago

Well said, Roach. It's an election year. Sen. White is just following the old GOP playbook that says taxes and fees are bad. Doesn't matter that the state is slated to cut another $1.3 BILLION, that's BILLION, dollars this year. We surely don't need this money that bad. Remember, Wall Street says the recession is over. Since they say it, it must be true, right?

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mtroach 4 years, 6 months ago

It's interresting that this story and it's comments have been removed from the "most discussed" list, and it's been put onto the back pages of the on-line issue. How does a one comment story bump a 5 comment story from the "most discussed"?

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