MVA bill would pave the way for fee increases, new roads

THE BALTIMORE SUN

Maybe it was the 80-degree heat, the lines or the mind-numbing paperwork. But a string of motorists trudging out of the Glen Burnie Motor Vehicle Administration office last week were fatalistic about a plan to raise $44 million annually through steep increases in dozens of motor vehicle fees.

Billy Coral, a 42-year-old house salesman who had just picked up vehicle title, seemed skeptical but resigned. (The fee for registering most cars, currently between $1 and $3, would rise to $12 under the plan.) Mr. Coral said he wouldn't mind paying the $12. But he wanted to be sure the money went for road maintenance and reconstruction and feared much of it would be siphoned off for other uses.

What about a dime increase in the state's 18.5-cents-per-gallon gas tax, still being urged by road contractors, engineers, unions and transportation officials? "I'd rather pay more for the cigarette tax," the Glen Burnie resident said, explaining that he is trying to give up smoking but wants to keep driving.

A harried-looking Sarah Tate, 56, of Glen Burnie, walked out of the MVA with her new blue-and-green Chesapeake Bay license tag and registration. (The increases would not have affected Mrs. Tate on this visit: No change has been proposed for the state's 5 percent vehicle excise tax and motor vehicle registration fees, which average $27.)

"I guess they're going to have to do something for roads, right?" she said. "What can we say? They're going to raise it somewhere. I'd rather not see the gas tax go higher."

"There don't seem to me like there's much you can do," said William Kirby, an 82-year-old retired machinist from Arbutus.

On Tuesday, the House Ways and Means and Senate Budget and Taxation committees plan to hold a joint hearing on a bill to permit the MVA to raise some or all of the more than 70 fees it charges motorists, truckers and the auto industry. The measure will be taken up during a one-day special budget session on June 28.

Susanne Brogan, an aide to House Speaker R. Clayton Mitchell Jr., D-Kent, said the bill would permit the state Motor Vehicle Administration to decide which fees it wants to raise and by how much. The only limitation would be that the MVA could not set fees at a level where it recovered more than 85 percent of its operating cost.

Now, the MVA raises $29 million -- or about 37 percent -- of its $78 million budget with fees. (That's not counting the state's 5 percent vehicle excise tax, which MVA officials do not consider one of their fees.)

Based on current revenue and spending figures, the bill would give the MVA the power to increase fees by about $44 million annually. Ms. Brogan said the bill would permit the MVA to issue regulations implementing the new fees as early as July 1.

State transportation officials, meanwhile, say if they are asked to set higher fees themselves, they will probably implement 71 increases proposed in a bill approved by the Senate but defeated by the House during the recent legislative session.

That bill would have raised the cost of a title for a new vehicle from $1 to $12, for a used vehicle from $3 to $12, for a learner's permit from $22 to $25 and for a new license from $20 to $30. Highway professionals also would be hit: The bill would have increased the price of a truck driver's license application from $10 to $20 and the fee to license auto factories in the state from $375 to $1,000.

Gov. William Donald Schaefer has warned that, without the money the higher fees will raise, the state will not be able to match -- and stands to forfeit -- $250 million in federal highway aid. The largest chunks of that money are earmarked for construction of a new Severn River bridge and expansion of U.S. 50 south of Annapolis.

The state Department of Transportation has frozen almost all new construction, citing a sharp drop in revenue from the state's 5 percent vehicle titling tax and gas tax revenues. In all, the transportation trust fund will come up about $50 million short for the fiscal year ending June 30, officials say.

At a joint House and Senate meeting on the fees last week, some legislators seemed as skeptical -- and as resigned -- as the motorists in Glen Burnie.

Delegate Ellen R. Sauerbrey, R-Baltimore County, scolded the administration for borrowing $75 million from the Maryland Transportation Authority, which runs the state's toll roads and bridges, for the controversial Baltimore-area light-rail project while letting road projects wither.

Delegate Michael R. Gordon, D-Montgomery, also questioned why the Baltimore light-rail project was proceeding despite the DOT's financial woes. "The administration has the power to protect what it wants to protect," he asserted.

House Speaker R. Clayton Mitchell Jr., D-Kent, made the passage of higher MVA fees possible by withdrawing his opposition to the plan two weeks ago under pressure from the governor and road contractors, who wield fat checkbooks when legislators look for campaign money. (The Highway Contractors of Maryland Political Action Committee, one of more than a half-dozen road-connected PACs, contributed $24,803 to candidates between 1986 and 1990.)

Mr. Mitchell said he feared the governor was willing to forfeit the federal highway grants to make his point. But the speaker stayed on the warpath even in retreat.

Thursday afternoon, he gave a speech to more than 400 highway contractors, engineers and unions gathered in the ballroom of the Baltimore-Washington International Marriott Hotel asserting that the state could have continued to build roads, and saved federal grant money, without new revenue.

He told the crowd that the DOT's financial straits were caused by the Baltimore-area light-rail system.

Mr. Mitchell warned that, even with his support, passage of the fee bill was not a sure thing. "Go ask the people of Baltimore County and other areas whether they want their taxes raised," he said. "Most of them will tell you, 'Hell no.' "

But the Senate approved the fees during the recent legislative session, and the House killed the proposal.

Administration officials, meanwhile, have said it would be irresponsible for the state to divert funds or to borrow more money over the short term as a stopgap to keep ma

jor long-term projects rolling.

"When we're making the commitment to go forward, to expend funds, we want to make sure those funds are going to be there," said Dennis C. Donaldson, a former legislator and lobbyist for the DOT.

The governor, state transportation officials, highway engineers and contractors have said the higher fees are only a temporary measure until a gas tax increase of up to a dime is passed soon.

Despite these warnings, Speaker Mitchell said he would not agree to consider raising gas taxes until the next session of the legislature convenes in January. Meantime, transportation officials have agreed to compile a detailed plan for use of any additional tax revenue.

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What motorists would pay

The state Department of Transportation has suggested raising 71 motor vehicle administration fees, and reducing one, to raise more than $40 million annually. The legislature is expected to consider the new fees June 26.

The following is a list of the suggested changes:

.. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. ..Current fee.. .. Proposed fee

Drivers' licenses:

Learner's license (all classes):.. .. .. ..$22.. .. .. .. .. .$25

New license:.. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .$20.. .. .. .. .. .$30

License Renewal:.. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. $ 6.. .. .. .. .. .$20

Duplicate/corrected:.. .. .. .. .. .. .. . $ 6.. .. .. .. .. .$10

Provisional:.. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .$ 6.. .. .. .. .. .$ 5

Apply to reinstate:.. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. $10.. .. .. .. .. .$15

Reinstate revoked:.. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .$15.. .. .. .. .. .$30

Reinstate revoked after drug

or alcohol conviction:. .. .. .. .. .. .. .$15.. .. .. .. .. .$60

Moped permit:.. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. ...$ 4.. .. .. .. .. .$20

Moped duplicate:.. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. ...$ 4.. .. .. .. .. .$ 5

Motorcyle safety course:.. .. .. .. .. .. .$25.. .. .. .. .. .$50

Commercial drivers' licenses:

Learner's application:.. .. .. .. .. .. .. $22.. .. .. .. .. .$25

New license application:.. .. .. .. .. .. .$20.. .. .. .. .. .$30

License fee:.. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .$10.. .. .. .. .. .$20

Renewal/conversion

from old license:.. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. ..$ 6.. .. .. .. .. .$20

Duplicate/corrected:.. .. .. .. .. .. .. ..$ 6.. .. .. .. .. .$10

Skills test:.. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .$30.. .. .. .. .. .$40

Skills retest:.. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. ..$15.. .. .. .. .. .$20

Business/professional license:

Billboard licenses:

10 or fewer signs:.. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. $ 25.. .. .. .. .. $ 50

11 to 50 signs:.. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. $100.. .. .. .. .. $200

Over 50 signs:.. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. ... $350.. .. .. .. .. $700

Billboard advertising permit:

200 square ft or less:.. .. .. .. .. .. ... $5.. .. .. .. .. $10

201 sq. ft. to 400 sq. ft.:.. .. .. .. .. . $8.. .. .. .. .. .$16

401 sq. ft. to 700 sq. ft.:.. .. .. .. .. .$10.. .. .. .. .. .$20

701 sq. ft. to 1,000 sq. ft.:.. .. .. ..$17.50.. .. .. .. .. $35

Junkyard license:.. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .$100.. .. .. .. ...$200

Manufacturer/distributor of vehicles:

1-50 vehicles:.. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .$ 50.. .. .. .. ..$ 100

51-500 vehicles:.. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. ..$150.. .. .. .. . $ 300

501-10,000 vehicles:.. .. .. .. .. .. .. .$250.. .. .. .. . $ 500

Over 10,000 vehicles:.. .. .. .. .. .. .. $500.. .. .. .. .$1,000

Auto factory branch:.. .. .. .. .. .. .. .$375.. .. .. .. .$1,000

Dealer's license:

Trailer's up to 15 foot:.. .. .. .. .. .. .$10.. .. .. .. .. .$50

New Cars:.. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. $50.. .. .. .. .. $250

All others:.. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. ..$50.. .. .. .. .. $200

Car salesman license:.. .. .. .. .. .. .. .$10.. .. .. .. .. .$30

Dismantler/recycler:.. .. .. .. .. .. .. .$125.. .. .. .. .. $200

Title service agent:.. .. .. .. .. .. .. ..$15.. .. .. .. .. .$30

Driver's school:

Application fee:.. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. $10.. .. .. .. .. .$20

License:.. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. ..$15.. .. .. .. .. .$30

Instructor's license:.. .. .. .. .. .. .. .$ 5.. .. .. .. .. .$30

Duplicate professional license:.. .. .. .. $ 2.. .. .. .. .. .$10

Certificate of title:

Used vehicle:.. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. $ 3.. .. .. .. .. .$12

Restored salvage:.. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. . $ 2.. .. .. .. .. .$12

Salvage/resale vehicle:.. .. .. .. .. .. ..$10.. .. .. .. .. .$12

All other:.. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. $ 1.. .. .. .. .. .$12

Duplicate certificate:.. .. .. .. .. .. .. $ 2.. .. .. .. .. .$ 5

Late filing charge:.. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. $ 5.. .. .. .. .. .$25

Corrected title:.. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. $ 0.. .. .. .. .. .$ 5

Administrative fees:

Permission to re-register after paying

outstanding parking tickets:.. .. .. .. .. $ 5.. .. .. .. .. .$ 8

Certified copies:.. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. ..$ 2.. .. .. .. .. .$ 7

Unused plates:.. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. . $ 0.. .. .. .. .. .$ 5

Bounced check charge:.. .. .. .. .. $10 or 10%.. .. ...$25 or 10%

Photo ID card duplicate:.. .. .. .. .. .. .$ 5.. .. .. .. .. .$ 8

Security interest filing

(when car loan is paid off).. .. .. .. .. .$12.. .. .. .. .. .$20

Duplicate security interest filing:.. .. ..$ 2.. .. .. .. .. .$ 5

Interchangeable registration:

Dealer:.. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. $13.50.. .. .. .. .$40.50

Motorcycle dealer:.. .. .. .. .. .. .. .$13.50.. .. .. .. .$18.50

Trailer Dealer:.. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .$13.50.. .. .. .. .. $27

Scrap/recycler:.. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .$13.50.. .. .. .. .. .$50

Finance company:.. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. $13.50.. .. .. .. .$40.50

Mobile equipment:.. .. .. .. .. .. .. ..$13.50.. .. .. .. .. .$50

Transporter:.. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .$47.25.. .. .. .. .. .$47

Other registrations:

Non-resident permit:.. .. .. .. .. .. .. ..$ 5.. .. .. .. .. .$20

15-day temporary:.. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. ..$10.. .. .. .. .. .$15

Transfer of plates:.. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. $ 1.. .. .. .. .. .$ 5

45-day temporary (for dealers):.. .. .. .$ .50.. .. .. .. .. .$ 5

Disabled plates: (one time fee).. .. .. .. $ 0.. .. .. .. .. .$ 5

Disabled parking permit:.. .. .. .. .. .. .$ 2.. .. .. .. .. .$ 5

Duplicate salvage:.. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .$ 2.. .. .. .. .. .$ 5

Replacement cards/tabs:.. .. .. .. .. .. ..$ 2.. .. .. .. .. .$ 5

Replacement tags:.. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. ..$ 2.. .. .. .. .. .$10

Vanity plates:.. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. ..$25.. .. .. .. .. .$30

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