Remember the long lines and chaos at Kansas tag offices last summer? It was all the result of a $40 million DMV computer system upgrade. It was paid for with a $40 million modernization fee added to every vehicle registration.
The legislature approved the fee in 2008. But it was supposed to be eliminated at the end of last year. Supposed to be.
"I actually didn't know anything about it. I just pay what they tell me I have to have to pay," says driver Pattie Malone moments after paying the fee at a downtown Wichita tag office.
In 2010, lawmakers quietly extended the fee as part of an $8.2 billion KDOT bill. They added a line to the original text that reads: "On and after January 1, 2013, the state treasurer shall credit such $4 to the state highway fund."
According to the Kansas Department of Revenue, the fee raises about $10 million a year.
The Sedgwick County Treasurer's office says some people have questioned the fee since the new year, but not many.
"I think for the most part people are used to paying it and they just don't question that it's continued," says Deputy Treasurer Jo Hillman.
Northeast Kansas Representative Richard Carlson is calling for more transparency. He chairs the house taxation committee. Carlson says the legislature never adheres to sales tax sunsets either. This week, his committee introduced a bill to eliminate the $4 fee altogether.
"I am anxious to hear the explanation as to why it should be kept on when we made the promise to let it sunset," he says.
Carlson advised Kansans who support or oppose the $4 fee to contact their representatives ahead of hearings on the sunset bill.