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Minnesota Legislature

Charging vehicle tabs a possibility

Published (5/1/2009)
By Mike Cook
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It could cost more for motor vehicle transactions, but a consumer might be able to use their credit card for payment.

Such are the provisions of a bill approved April 28 by the House Transportation Finance and Policy Division.

Rep. Rick Hansen (DFL-South St. Paul), the sponsor of HF2116, said the measure would improve customer service and let deputy registrar offices maintain their viability. The bill next goes to the House Finance Committee. A companion, SF1701, sponsored by Sen. Dan Sparks (DFL-Austin), awaits action by the Senate Transportation Budget and Policy Division.

The bill would raise the filing fee for motor vehicle transactions by $1.50, with the fee going to registrar operations, if the transaction occurs at a deputy registrar. The last renewal increase was in 2001; title service increase in 2005. The fee associated with online or mail transactions through Driver and Vehicle Services at the Department of Public Safety would go to the General Fund and the vehicle services operating account.

According to the Minnesota Deputy Registrars’ Association, deputy registrars transfer nearly $1 billion to the state annually from motor vehicle tax and registration collections. Of the 173 registrars in the state, 60 percent are public offices offered by a county or city. The remaining 40 percent are private offices where a county or city has opted not to provide the service. They operate solely on handling fees.

However, the business model has changed, including increased costs for technology and keeping personal data secure, said Jim Hirst, representing the association.

Grace Wachlarowicz, director of licensing and elections in White Bear Lake, said transactions can take up to 30 minutes. “We get the difficult ones that have to be done face-to-face. … To train an individual just to know the minimum basics is a minimum of one year of on-the-job training.”

Registrars are unable to accept credit cards because they must absorb fees that banks impose on these transactions. The bill would allow a registrar to accept some credit cards for payment, along with a surcharge to cover the registrar’s transaction costs.

However, the most popular credit card may not be accepted.

DVS Director Pat McCormack said MasterCard, Discover and American Express allow a customer to pay a convenience fee to use their card; Visa does not.

The credit card provision is also in SF3, sponsored by Sen. Linda Berglin (DFL-Mpls). Approved 56-10 by the Senate April 7, it awaits action by the House State and Local Government Operations Reform, Technology and Elections Committee.

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