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Fees for technology

Published (3/28/2008)
By Mike Cook
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Minnesota motorists could pay more to register their vehicle or get a driver’s license.

Sponsored by Rep. Terry Morrow (DFL-St. Peter), HF4100 calls for a $1.75 surcharge on vehicle registration renewals; title applications, filings and transfers; and driver’s license, permit and identification card filings. The money would be used to create a new information system in the Driver and Vehicle Services Division of the Public Safety Department.

The bill was approved March 25 by the House Transportation Finance Division and sent to the House Finance Committee. A companion bill, SF3787, sponsored by Sen. Rick Olseen (DFL-Harris), was scheduled to be heard March 27 by the Senate Finance Committee.

The division’s current system has resulted in delays processing titles and driver’s licenses, and has sometimes resulted in delays at traffic stops when a law enforcement officer checks information about a driver. Money for a system pre-design was appropriated last year from trunk highway funds.

A new system has a price tag of about $48 million, with the anticipated collection amounts to be about $12.25 million annually. After Fiscal Year 2012, Morrow said a future Legislature could decide to sunset the fee or keep it going to fund a system upgrade or other maintenance issues.

“The governor has proposed spending $12 million a year over the next four years from the Trunk Highway Fund, but my concern is that money should be used for roads and bridges,” Morrow said. “If the computer system is used for fees and registrations it should be paid for by licenses and registrations.”

The division budget is fee-based, meaning all business costs must be covered through fee collections. “I don’t like the idea of raising a fee, but I don’t like the idea of having an antiquated computer system even more,” Morrow said. The Minnesota Automobile Dealers Association supports the plan.

Rep. Mike Nelson (DFL-Brooklyn Park) unsuccessfully tried to amend the bill by requiring that the system allow law enforcement access to motor vehicle insurance status.

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