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House passes bill to cap vehicle registration fee

(Photo courtesy Arizona Motor Vehicle Division)

(Photo courtesy Arizona Motor Vehicle Division)

Getting ready to renew the registration on your car or truck?

You might want to choose the one-year option.

On a 57-3 margin the state House on Monday voted to scrap their year-old plan to fund the Highway Patrol with a fee to be determined by John Halikowski, the head of the Department of Transportation.

Rep. Noel Campbell, R-Prescott, had said the fee would be in the range of $18 a year. But lawmakers  quickly soured on the proposal when the ADOT director pegged the fee at $32.

The revised version in HB 2320 once again gives Halikowski the power to set the fee but with a critical difference: It limits what he can charge to that $18.

What makes this important to vehicle owners is that registration renewals that are going out now include that $32 fee. More to the point, for those that choose the convenience of a two- or five-year renewal, that $32 fee is being assessed for each year.

This measure, assuming it becomes law, can’t take effect before the summer. And registration renewals are usually due at the end of the month they’re mailed out.

But if HB 2320 becomes law, collecting the full $32 would no longer be legal at that point.

And what that means is those who choose a one-year renewal now won’t see the full fee when they get their 2020 renewal notices.

All that, of course, presumes that Gov. Doug Ducey, who liked the original version, will sign the stripped-down measure.

What’s behind the whole issue is that the state, in a budget-saving maneuver, has for years partly funded Highway Patrol through gasoline taxes. The result of that, however, has been less money for road construction and repair.

Campbell pushed last year’s fee authorization as a solution for preserving the road funds.

But the final version authorized Halikowski to raise a fee high enough to fund not just part but the entire Highway Patrol, along with a 10 percent cushion.

What that did is free up other cash for Ducey to fund other priorities, like his promised pay hike for teachers.

But by the time Halikowski got done, that promised $18 fee had ballooned to $32. And that created a backlash, including at least one measure to repeal the fee entirely and this one to scale it back.

Just the publicity about repeal efforts is having an effect.

ADOT spokesman Doug Nick said his agency, which began sending out the renewal notices with the $32 fee in December, already has seen an increase in the number of vehicle owners who are taking a wait-and-see attitude, choosing a one-year renewal.

Not everyone was pleased with the revised fee.

Rep. Pamela Powers Hannley, D-Tucson, said a flat fee, whether $32 or $18, is unfair. She said those with more expensive vehicles should pay more, with a lower assessment on those who own a car “that just barely gets them to work.”

Monday’s House vote sends the measure to the Senate.

The real opposition, however, could come from Ducey who was counting on the full $185 million from the fee in his budget.

Ducey has built his proposed $10.4 billion budget on collecting the full fee even while insisting that it did not violate his promise never to increase taxes. With HB 2320 he will come up $47 million short.

Gubernatorial press aide Patrick Ptak sidestepped the question of whether his boss will sign or veto the fee reduction.

He said Ducey’s main concern is that any adjustment of the fee must keep in mind the need for cash for road construction and repairs, especially in rural areas where resources are badly needed. But Ptak did not address the fact that the final version of HB 2320 actually fully funds the state account that pays for road construction, albeit using tax dollars that Ducey has earmarked for other priorities.

7 comments

  1. Repeal, Over-Ride Any Veto or Impeach.

    Still unacceptable. $18 per vehicle is still too high and it’s absolutely WRONG to charge owners of multiple vehicles more than ONCE.

    If this current bill even passes, are those who paid $32 before the bill goes into effect going to get a rebate or credit for the overpay ?

    Snowbirds spend over $8 BILLION dollars per year in AZ. They certainly create wear and tear on our roads with their huge RV’s. Why not find a way to tap into the snowbirds’ wallets ? For that matter, seeing as they spend over $8 Billion per year, the snowbird contributions could easily cover the “measley” multi-million dollar amount that’s being sought.

    This mess is the result of dirty politics to begin with. Not getting the required 2/3rds vote to pass was under-handed and an insult to the public. Even with this new proposal, the wants/needs of the CONSTITUENCY is not being respected or upheld.

    Since Ducey can’t run again and he isn’t angling for future votes, then perhaps an Impeachment is in order. Any politician that doesn’t serve their constituency has no place in politics and should be removed from office.

  2. bradley taylor hudson

    This is called “Distraction Politics”. It is designed to fool the voters. While legislators are distracting you with a savings of $14 a year, they are also passing laws like HB 2153, (Never heard of it, have you? ), which is an underhanded way to prevent voters from having a say in govt and keep the rich in power. The end result will be far more significant than $14. We have to focus !

  3. Both these prior comments are accurate, with good points. It gets so tiresome. When will people wake up? It’s too bad Ducey didn’t have a strong opponent, because he’s so awful. Impeachment would be a hard row to hoe. But yes, all-around, he’s awful – including the recent appointment of McSally. Just showing he has no respect for the voters, when they said – no, we don’t want her as a senator. So, just as a dictator does, he goes around the election & just appoints her.

    But on this matter – it’s amazing, the outrageous cost of registration in this state. One where wages are low. We lived in California for 10 years on a teaching assignment, and paid less! How is that? I’m sure funding can be arranged in a better manner. We need better leaders here. The voters need to get with it – become better educated. I’m going to educate myself right now – on HB 2153. Thanks Mr. Hudson.

  4. Arizona’s vehicle registration fees are far higher than where I relocated from. This added fee is an insult to all who have to register a vehicle here. Additionally, I can’t imagine that all that is collected will be used the way it’s supposed to be. That fee just doubled what I have to pay on a vehicle that’s 21 years old!

  5. The fee is for law enforcement, teachers and a small amount for the highways. It was shoved down everyone’s throats even the MVD to handle. MVD agents are taking the brunt of everyone’s frustration and those people barely make 13 dollars an hour. I literally seen a guy verbally destroy some young agent in the an office over this tax hike.

  6. Since AZ is NOT a title-only state, I just got screwed when I sold my car. My title was held in California, so when I paid it off… I received a California title. AZ made me register this car even though I was selling it within 24 hours. I was charged the friggin $32.00 fee anyways… so my plate credit was $32.00 short… along with the $1.50 air quality fee. It’s bad enough registration is expensive,.. but this is INSANE!

  7. Trick backdoor politics. Money raised for anything never goes to what it is imposed for.
    Speak up people!
    If teachers want to make more money go get a construction job or drive a truck.
    Work in the hot sun no air conditioner no shade no nice restroom free parking and benefits.

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