Pay more -- sure -- but just who is to take the heat? Legislators agree fees should be raised, disagree on placing blame.


Although key legislators agree that Marylanders should pay more for driver's licenses, titles and other services, they differ on who should take the responsibility -- and perhaps the political heat -- for setting the fees.

Some state senators said the legislature should approve all fee increases, but House leaders said they prefer to give state transportation officials a freer hand in setting the fees themselves.

The legislature expects to vote on a bill to raise Motor Vehicle Administration fees during its special budget session June 26. The new fees for driver's licenses, title certificates, copies of records and business licenses for auto dealers have not been proposed yet.

At a briefing in Annapolis yesterday, House Speaker R. Clayton Mitchell Jr., D-Eastern Shore, said he wanted to give the transportation department the power to raise fees as necessary without having to win the legislature's approval each time.

Under his plan, transportation officials would go before a legislative oversight committee for review whenever they seek to raise MVA fees.

But some senators said they were wary of giving the department more power.

Sen. Julian L. Lapides, D-City, said the department might increase the fees beyond the level needed to recoup the costs of its services. "The department [of Transportation] is insatiable in its appetite for spending," he said, calling the House proposal the equivalent of giving the agency "a blank check."

A group of senators and delegates hopes to reach a compromise by next week, when the legislature will sponsor a hearing on the bill.

Legislative leaders agreed to consider the bill this month after the Schaefer administration argued that it needed more revenue to keep the state from losing $312 million in federal funds for highway projects.

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