Lawmaker aims to roll back controversial hike in vehicle late fees

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Dec 17th, 2010

IMG_4946After a couple of years and hundreds of phone calls from upset constituents, one Republican state lawmaker says he has already set the wheels in motion to reverse a recent increase in late fees for tardy vehicle registration.

Meanwhile, Democratic Gov.-elect John Hickenlooper says if it passes, the lost revenue would have to be offset elsewhere in the budget.

Two years ago, the Democratically controlled legislature passed Senate Bill 09-108, dubbed FASTER, which Gov. Bill Ritter signed into law. FASTER tacked on a $41 fee on average onto vehicle registrations and imposed an additional $25 late fee per month up to $100 for those people who failed to renew their tags before the expiration date.

It’s the increased late fee, says Republican Rep. Randy Baumgardner, of Hot Sulphur Springs,  that really has people irritated. He will introduce a bill to roll it back. Baumgardner’s proposed legislation would reset the state’s late fee to a flat, $10 penalty that is applied at the discretion of each county, as was the case statewide prior to FASTER.

The fee has been of particular concern to rural residents who often own multiple vehicles for seasonal uses and don’t use them, or see the need to register them, year-round.

“When they go to register their vehicles that have sat idle, they are slapped with a $100 surcharge, per vehicle, in addition to the increased fee that applies to all registrations across the board,” said Baumgardner.

Hickenlooper said today at a legislative preview with the press that it’s up to the legislature to decide whether or not to tinker with the fee, but something still has to be done about failing bridges since FASTER dollars go toward repairs.

“I don’t want to step on their (the legislature’s) toes—that’s their decision,” said Hickenlooper. “FASTER did not solve the problem, it was a Band-aid.”

Hickenlooper said that while he was campaigning for governor, he heard as well from citizens who were upset over the fees. He said many ranchers and farmers told him that they were suddenly having to pay much more to register a vehicle that they would use six or eight weeks a year and that they felt it was patently unfair to them.  The problem though, says Hickenlooper, is finding a better way to fund the bridge repairs that he says are woefully underfunded even with FASTER in place.

“If someone wants to repeal FASTER, my question to them would be where are you going to get those revenues from?  Right now there’s no obvious source for that,” said Hickenlooper.

Yet, Baumgardner says that the imposition of a late fee the people may eventually learn to avoid, ultimately, would bring in zero dollars.

“If everybody pays on time, then where does the money come from? “ suggested Baumgardner.

“It’s the impact on families that are struggling out here and ask themselves, ‘Do I feed myself or my family, or do I pay for the plates on my vehicle?’ ” said Baumgardner.  “For some folk, who for one reason or another are late on their registration, it’s a very real dilemma.”

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