State Rep. Randy Baumgardner recently introduced a bill he hopes will minimize some of the “hardships” created by previous legislation concerning fines assessed on late vehicle registrations.
The Republican from Hot Sulphur Springs, along with other House Representatives, introduced Colorado House Bill 11-1084 on Jan. 20. Baumgardner is the prime House sponsor of the bill, which has been sent to the House Committee on Transportation.
The bill aims to repeal a late vehicle registration fee enacted through Senate Bill 09-108, also known as FASTER, and would reinstate the optional $10 late fee, credited to county governments, previously in effect.
FASTER stands for the Funding Advancement for Surface Transportation and Economic Recovery Act of 2009.
Baumgardner said several residents of Northwest Colorado asked him to examine the possibility of reversing the late vehicle registration fee.
“With the economic downturn, people have not been able to buy their plates on time and then they are penalized because they either have to pick between feeding their families, keeping a roof over their head, or buying a license plate,” he said. “People (are) kind of upset with that.”
Several other registration fee increases were also included in FASTER, but those would be left untouched by the bill, Baumgardner said.
“Nobody was happy about Senate Bill 108,” he said. “Yeah, there were a few people that said we have to have the money for the roads and bridges and we’re fine with that. We’re fine with the money going to roads and bridges, but not to bike trails and open spaces and bus lanes.”
Now, Baumgardner said, the money is “going for everything else except that.”
Under FASTER, those who do not pay their vehicle registration fees on time suffer a $25 per month fine for tardiness. FASTER caps the fee at $100, which can only be waived under certain circumstances, he said.
H.B. 11-1084 would cap the fee at $10 and leave it up to individual county clerk and recorders to decide if they would collect the fine.
Moffat County Clerk and Recorder Lila Herod said she supports Baumgardner’s bill.
“It was an enormous — they don’t want to call it a tax — an enormous additional fee that hit all of us,” she said of FASTER. “I think it is great that Randy is trying to carry that.
“I guess I would be surprised if it totally passes because it has generated a lot of revenue and they are struggling with a real tight budget. I wonder if they can afford to let those fees go.”
Herod said the clerk’s office didn’t receive many complaints about the $10 late fee. But, when FASTER took effect more than a year ago, then-county clerk Elaine Sullivan started hearing numerous complaints about the increase in various registration fees.
In response to the residents’ concerns, she provided blank comment cards for them to send their complaints directly to former Gov. Bill Ritter.
“When it shifted to $25 on top of the FASTER fees then there were a lot of unhappy taxpayers out there,” Herod said. “That’s when Elaine (Sullivan) started setting out the little complaint cards that people could send.”
According to the bill’s fiscal impact notes, the measure would reduce the state Highway Users Tax Fund’s revenue by about $25 million each year, which is divided up between the state highway fund, counties and cities.
Baumgardner said his argument to the potential loss of $25 million is that the revenue was not being used as originally proposed and “if nobody was ever late, you wouldn’t have any money in that fund.”
“For us to bank on and count on Coloradans not being able to buy those plates on time, we are almost counting on them not to succeed, and I don’t think that is a good place to be,” he said. “We as a state are supposed to be helping our constituents, not adding burdens to them, and that is what Senate Bill 108 did.”
He said the $25 million collected is “going for whatever project happens to be on hand.”
Moreover, the state needs to step away from a “use it or lose it theory,” when it comes to managing such funds, Baumgardner said.
“Well, any impact is going to be an impact,” he said of the potential $25 million loss. “But, I think (we should) start living within our means and directing money where we need to and not just spending it to be spending it. That is what has happened in the past years.”
Baumgardner encouraged residents in favor of the bill to attend a committee hearing around noon on Thursday at the state capitol building in Denver.
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