Local Rep. introduces late fee reduction bill

Baumgardner: FASTER fine of up to $100 not being spent wisely

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Randy Baumgardner

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Lila Herod

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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Comments

wellwell 3 years, 7 months ago

Well, what bothers me is that the funds are not spent on the bridges and highways. If it is being spent on luxury items like bike trails and open spaces ,that does sound like spending money for quickly and easily done items for those that are wanting that luxury when the infrastructure is crumbling.

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Jon Pfeifer 3 years, 7 months ago

We are currently seeing how deficits get out of control. Democrats take control and implement all kinds of programs and increase "fees" and taxes. Then republicans take over and start cutting those fees and taxes. But the programs are still there with their budgets. Lets face it, It is hard to take away a program once it is implemented. I realize this is a simplified version of how this works, but I think it is a general trend. How is the $1 billion deficit in the state budget going to be addressed while we are simply cutting revenue? We are seeing this at the state and federal levels right now. (The federal government extended the GW Bush tax cuts and lowered the social security payroll tax... it also extended unemployment benefits. In other words, it decreased revenue and increased government spending on other programs). It is irresponsible and shortsighted and again ignores what I perceive to be the greatest threat to this country: debt.

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Neal Harkner 3 years, 7 months ago

SmallTowner - While I agree that our ballooning debt is a major hurdle, I disagree with your assertion that Republicans are saviors on horseback. The state of Texas is about as hard-right conservative as you can get, yet the state is facing a $20 billion plus budget shortfall (2nd only to California).

The initial cost-slashing proposals have come down hard on public education, which is ironic considering that Texas ranks near the bottom in graduation rates, literacy, and per-pupil spending.

At the same time that they're talking about cutting education and closing nursing homes, the White Knights From the Right continue to pour taxpayer dollars into poorly-audited corporate slush funds that Governor Perry uses to curry favor with rich donors.

One fund, the Texas Enterprise Fund, has only created about 40% of the jobs that recipients promised would be created. Perry gave $1.2 million from the TEF to Frito-Lay to upgrade their business management system even though Frito-Lay could have easily afforded to pay their own way. You see, Republicans only hate welfare when it's not given to corporations.

As for your belief that Democrats raise fees while Republicans lower them, the last time Texas ran a shortfall ($12 billion in either 2003 or 2005), the Republican legislature raised state fees across the board and all the 'Pubs patted themselves on the back while proclaiming (disingenuously) that they'd met all their revenue goals without raising taxes. They're at it again, too. There's talk right now in Austin about pumping up the vehicle registration fee by $100 to raise revenue.

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Jon Pfeifer 3 years, 7 months ago

I didn't think I described Republicans as "saviors on horseback." They are just as much to blame as democrats in my mind for the mounting debt. They (in general) lack the courage to take the political hit required to cut programs/spending, and wind up reducing revenue without reducing spending. And you're right, they will increase spending on those items that matter to their constituents (even if the revenue isn't available).

Although your example of a budget deficit in Texas is related to debts, which are the sum of deficits (and surpluses), when you look at their debt rating on Forbes, they are in good shape. http://www.forbes.com/2010/01/20/states-debt-pensions-interactive-map.html They are having a bad year, but I am interested in long term debt, not the deficit in one year. Texas only owes $500 per capita (whereas we all owe $45,000 on account of the federal debt). The map in the above link does not perfectly coincide with "red" and "blue" states, but there is definitely a correlation. (compare the map of debt ratings to the map of states voting democratic in the last presidential election).

Again, I was speaking in general, so there will be a lot of examples outside of this generality. The truth is that the notion that legislatures-both state and federal-can repeatedly run deficits will eventually catch up to us.

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