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Ducey stands by $32 vehicle-registration fee

The first piece of legislation filed for the 2019 legislative session may already be doomed.

Gov. Doug Ducey hinted on Tuesday that he will not sign any legislation repealing a new vehicle-license registration fee, despite the fee coming in higher than anticipated.

“That’s not on our priority list,” Ducey told reporters, when asked if he would support such a repeal.

Ducey’s comments followed the filing of the first bill for the upcoming legislative, which aims to undo the fee the governor signed into law this year. Rep. Michelle Ugenti-Rita, R-Scottsdale, introduced legislation last week to repeal the fee that is anticipated to bring in $185 million from state motorists in order to fund highway patrol.

Rep. Michelle Ugenti-Rita (R-Scottsdale)

Rep. Michelle Ugenti-Rita (R-Scottsdale)

When lawmakers passed the legislation earlier this year, they were told the fee assessed would likely be about $18 per motorist per year and would be charged when residents renewed their vehicle registration. The fee is set by the director of the Department of Transportation. And when the final number for the vehicle fee was announced late last month, it came out to $32 per vehicle — a 77 percent increase from what lawmakers anticipated.

The vehicle-license fee had strong support from Ducey during the legislative session because it halted the need for lawmakers to sweep funds earmarked for road construction and repair to fund the highway patrol. Beyond that, the measure was pitched as way to free up other dollars in the state budget in order to fund the governor’s legislative priorities — specifically, to help fund teacher pay raises.

Ducey did not outright say he would veto any bills repealing the fee, but he dismissed the public safety fee as a done deal.

“That’s been passed,” he said Tuesday.

ADOT Director John Halikowski was tasked with calculating the cost of operation for the Department of Public Safety’s Highway Patrol division. The new fee would cover the total, including a ten-percent buffer.

The Highway Patrol budget will be $168 million, or $185 million with the buffer, which was higher than what legislative budget analysts predicted earlier this year.

Couple that with fewer motorists to charge than state budget analysts projected, because some drivers already prepaid their registrations for two or five years, and that’s how ADOT arrived at the $32 figure.

Although the actual fee was higher than projected, Ducey expressed no regrets in signing the bill enacting the new vehicle-registration fee earlier this year.

“There is a fee and we will leave it to ADOT to set the fee,” Ducey said.

Ugenti-Rita, who voted against the fee in February, fundamentally opposed the way lawmakers approved it — via a work-around the Legislature used to avoid a two-thirds majority vote to pass the fee. It was the “worst way to govern,” she said.

A 1992 voter-approved constitutional amendment requires a two-thirds vote from both legislative chambers to pass a tax increase. Ugenti-Rita called the Legislature’s actions in allowing the ADOT director to set the fee “sneaky.”

The maneuver allowed lawmakers to pass the measure with a simple majority instead of a two-thirds vote.

“The process was violated,” Ugenti-Rita said. “It cut the public out of the discussion by introducing it with the agency director setting a ‘fee’ and not having it introduced the traditional way, which is to put the dollar amount in statute.”

As legislation implementing the fee was advancing through the Legislature, opponents cried foul, calling the fee a tax increase. Ducey, who promised not to raise taxes while in office, maintains that it is a fee and not a tax. Passing the fee through the Legislature by a simple majority instead of a two-thirds vote gives the governor more ground to stand on his argument.

Some other Republican lawmakers are also irked the new fee came in higher than expected, and similar to Ugenti-Rita, are mulling over the idea of introducing legislation to repeal or cap the fee.

While he hasn’t filed any legislation to that effect, Sen. Warren Petersen wants to cap the fee at $18 — the amount budget analysts originally projected.

But Ducey’s comments today indicate any such legislation may be a lost cause.

Staff writer Ben Giles contributed to this report.

27 comments

  1. bradley taylor hudson

    Of course Ducey is bound to this tax. As a regressive tax, it allows him to avoid taxing those who keep him in office. He is serving his constituents: the well-to-do. They supply the money that keeps him in office. He fights taxes for the rich, and pushes taxes for the poor.

  2. I liked Ducey up until this. Now I agree with the other commenter. This is an elitist action taxing those who can’t afford it and it’s not even remotely reasonable for someone who makes less than a decent wage I already can’t afford the registration. I don’t know what I’m going to do now. Not a fan of Ducey at all anymore

  3. I remember registration fees went up right after Ducey was first elected 4 years a go, and now he was for raising our fees right after his second electoral victory. Voted for Ducey twice, definitely feel betrayed. Adding $32. to our fees EVERY YEAR is an outrage!!

  4. I am a registered voter, I voted for you Governor Doug Ducey and I did not get an opportunity to vote on this change. I own three vehicles and already pay extra for personalized plate $25 each and Environmental plate $25 each to support non-profit. I will not renew my registrations with anything extra because of additional fee of $32 for each vehicle, thus impacting non-profits that receive support from this revenue. One of my vehicles is a 1950 truck that has been registered since 1994 and I have not even driven it for 21 years. The registration for the 1950 is less than $30 a year and I choose to not reregister it in the future because this fee is higher than the registration. I support the repeal and thank Representative Michelle Ugenti-Rita for filing. Thank you Department of Public Safety’s Highway Patrol division for your service to our state and helping to keep motorists safe. I appreciate your officers, I just do not appreciate having legislation pass without my vote.

  5. I just paid the extra fee of $32, I was hit with the surprise.

  6. Just found out about the new $32 fee to fund the non essential highway patrol. Gee, what a great idea now we’ll have even more highway patrol officers lurking about on Arizona highways sneaking up on unsuspecting travelers to frisk them of their hard earned cash. The best part is I’m being forced to pay for it with this $32 fee, or should we just call it what it really is, a TAX. Ducey knew it wouldn’t pass if he played by the rules so he changed the name from tax to fee, but it still feels the same to me. Governor Ducey should work for the highway patrol, because he is sneaky too.

  7. Disappointed in Show Low

    My main concern on this TAX, called a FEE, would be it’s legality. The AZ State Constitution surely has a right way to raise revenue for the Highway Patro, or road maintenance, or whateverl. This seems more than sneaky, and most likely an extremely illeagal tax that should be challenged on every level. I calll on lawmakers from both sides of the aisle to do the right thing, and repeal this unjust, illeagally established tax, not at all passed as a fee to register your vehicle, but a ploy to put one unelected person in charge of setting this Tax/Fee without control by our elected officials, or a vote of the people. I predict this will be Governor Ducey’s downfall. These folks obviously can’t live within their budget, like the rest of us are expected to do. This is an incompetent and ineffective way to lead.

  8. Ducey, You’re done. This is Arizona, not California. We vote for conservative legislators in this State, because we ARE a CONSERVATIVE State (at least we used to be, before the influx of liberals from elsewhere took over our major cities). As a citizen from one of the “rural” parts of Arizona, that you folks in the population centers tend to ignore, I’m now firmly committed to informing my fellow citizens of your (and the legislature’s) misdeeds, misconduct, and violation of law. Votes count, sir. You will not be getting mine in the future. Hopefully, I will be able to convince others in your constituency to agree and assure that your tenure as Governor is short-lived.

  9. Not only is the amount of this Tax/Fee excessive, it was passed in an under-handed manner, which speaks of questionable integrity. What gives an unelected official the right to arbitrarily decide how much the rest of us will have to pay when we have no say in the matter whatsoever ? That’s known as Taxation Without Representation.

    I can’t imagine any vehicle owners who won’t be displeased with this new Tax/Fee and it’s a safe bet that most drivers are of voting age. Republicans, Democrats and Independents will be alienated as One and I hope that those lawmakers who voted for this remember that come election time.

  10. Ducey is done in AZ. I will NOT vote for him again!!!!

  11. I agree with all of the responses above, $32 is a lot, I too will no longer pay the extra $25 for special
    plates, so much dishonesty,typical lawmaker. Always doing things underhanded like people are not going
    to notice..Hello…I too was in shock when I received my registration for renewal.

  12. This tax is ludicrous, why ask us to pay $32 per vehicle for driving on the roads? I did not ask for a tax increase, who asked for this? This needs to be repealed. I wonder why the news stations do not put this on the news, we just have to find out about it when our registrations come due.

  13. Doesn’t this tax fall under “taxation without representation?” Just paid the illegal tax on my motor scooter – $32! found out it will be required on our golf-cart? $32! When the registration notice arrived on our little camp trailer…guess what? $32!!! We will be seeing how our Gov. deals with this, if he stands his ground on this new tax that we the people had nothing to say about…this is his vote for socialism…bigger government…and he needs to go! This is Arizona…we left California…what are you thinking Gov. Ducey.

  14. This $35 on a 1998 vehicle which I drive is more than the base tax. It is also more than I spend to feed my family for 3 days. So what should I get rid of? The old vehicle that I use to get to my min wage job or the family?

  15. I have 2 vehicles and 3 motorcycles 5 X $32.00
    We already pay so much in gas taxes, and then Doug sneaks this in all hush hush.
    I can assure Doug this much….we the voters will NOT forget this when we go to the polls!!!
    I’m on a fixed income and making ends meet is already hard enough….THANKS ALOT DOUG.

    Signed
    A Sucker Who Vote For You

  16. In December we purchased an old Bronco for my son who is starting to drive. When we registered the vehicle I was shocked at the amount that was charged because this vehicle is old. I’ve registered old cars in the past for my older children and they never exceeded $50.00 per year. I reviewed the line items and learned about this new “fee.” Unbelievable. They call this a fee because they can but let’s be honest, aside from playing loose with the law, this is a tax. With the cars my two teenage boys drive, we have four in my household. We also have motorcycles. Six of those vehicles previously cost less than $35.00 per year to register. This sneaky, underhanded new charge more than doubles our annual registration cost on those vehicles. Additionally, we cannot drive our respective car at the same time we are riding a motorcycle. No household maximums, the ability to exceed actual registration costs. Using actual tax money that was collected for the purpose of paying for the things this new fee will now fund to “…free up other dollars in the state budget in order to fund the governor’s legislative priorities” is nonsense, hogwash, rubbish. Criminal.

  17. Goodbye Doug Ducey and your sneaky end around ‘public safety fee’.($32.00/vehicle)
    I voted for you before but never again. I might as well vote for a Liberal Democrat.

  18. Governor Dulce, what were you thinkin. Not only car insurance is going up in price property taxes are going up, come to think about it verything is going up even the cost of food and our pay checks remain the same. We are paying more now than 10 years ago and now they’re coming up with a $32 per vehicle safety feed, this include RVs motorcycles, trailers, atvs, horse trailer anything you drive on the roads.

    Who voted for this bill? only the governor of Arizona. We the people of Arizona who live here did no vote this bill in and we had no knowledge of it until now. This is not the way we do things in this country or in this state. To pass a Bill the people have to vote it in or out, one person can’t make that choice for all of us. Some people have collector vehicles that they only drive to car shows and maybe one day of the month, if a person has 3 vehicles he or she would have to pay $96 dollars extra on top of their registration plus insurace every year. I would agree to only pay for one vehicle in the family and that is it. We need to stop this BS right now.
    Mr. governor if you don’t want to vote this bill out then we are going to vote you out one way or another, we will find a way to get you out of office. I am a veteran of this country and I did not fight for my country to be taxed to death.

  19. Miguel
    I hate to say it but Doug Ducey use the money charged us to pay for DPS funding so that he could sweep the original DPS funding to use for his own projects and purposes like giving raises to teachers that he took away before.

  20. First off unless he runs for a different office you wouldn’t be able to vote for Ducey again anyway. He’s on his 2nd term as governeor. That said, this FEE demonstrates many things about our state legislators, or Republican legislators to be specific. They circumvented the tax loophole for a two third vote by labeling it a fee, then they increased a supposed $18 fee to $32 without hesitation & that total can change as the anual needs may change. To add insult ot injury, they strike down an attempt to undo it by another legislator.

    Just another example of the republicans at their finest. Let’s see just in this term:
    1) the legislative immunity issue (which Gov. Ducey said needed repeal or change), that was enacted so that they couldn’t be detained to prevent prescence for votes. Why not just have it in effect during those vote times 24 hrs before & after.
    2) school vouchers, again skirting voters wishes as the right sees fit or in their own best interests. Even changing responsibility from an elected democratic supervisor to a replubican legislator.
    3) anti vaxxing, funny how Ducey can defy republicans when it suits him.
    4) Ducey appointing McSally to replace Kyl when she was defeated by democratic Sinema & the voters.

    I’m sure there’s more examples, COME ON PEOPLE WAKE UP !!

  21. Gov. Dousch, you are a socialst. You can call it a FEE all you want, its still a TAX!

  22. 2X I voted for this douchbag!
    I wish someone could start legislation to do away with this “fee”!!!
    Kinda like Obama….why isn’t this being stopped!? Why didn’t someone stop Obama!?
    I have 3 old motorcycles almost antiques but now I can’t afford to register them and then this rat will fine me for not doing so!!!
    Welcome to my rant comards!

  23. I left another state because of the taxes.
    Now arizona / ducey is up to some of the same politician underhanded tactics.
    I pay property taxes – yavapai college tax I get no use out, school tax I get no use out of.
    Sales tax on everything I buy.
    We all pay 19 cents on each gallon of gasoline we buy.
    Then we pay state income tax.
    Yes this is a tax hands down!
    How about all of out of state license plates we all see going on the roads do they get to pay the so called fee also. The rule needs to change – if a person rents or owns property here in Arizona and uses our highways they need to pay just like permanent residents. That way we could keep the vehicle license fees down.

  24. Also new from ADOT- You cannot transfer the title of your vehicle without purchasing another registration which will include the new tax again. So the seller forfeits a paid for registration, and the buyer must also buy a registration or else ADOT will not process the title transfer. Strong arm tactics akin to extortion. I suggest letting it expire, take your chances in the Court.

  25. I contacted my representative today….he said that there is a good chance for another bill to repeal this “TAX” that Deucey put on we the people with out caring to hear our voice!
    I will post when I hear more.

  26. If you drive you should pay for that privilege. We need the money. Have you seen our freeways and surface streets? They are like driving on dirt roads. I think they should double the registration fee to $64 and double the current AZ gasoline tax as well. It’s not that much. And I’m a Republican.

  27. You like paying for the roads that are NOT being fixed!!!!?????!!! REALLY~!!!!!
    You drank the KOOL-AID Chump!

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