Locals upset about high price to register their vehicles
At just 8:45 a.m. Tuesday the line outside the Department of Motor Vehicles office in Truckee was already 15 people deep and growing. Residents of Truckee, Tahoe City and other nearby areas lined up to renew drivers licenses, transfer titles and ask questions of the DMV staff.
On many peoples’ minds was the increase in Vehicle Licensing Fees that took effect Oct. 1. While nobody was pleased to be paying more to register their automobile, the local reaction to the VLF increase ranged from surprise to anger.
The fee increase was brought about as a result of the State of California’s current budget crisis. While many local residents complained about the new, higher registration fees, many were unaware that the reduced fees of the last five years were a result of legislation passed in 1998, designed to give back a portion of the budget surplus that California was then experiencing.
According to Bill Branch, a spokesperson for the California DMV, the normal 2 percent VLF fee was discounted by 25 percent in 1999, by 35 percent in 2000, and by 67.5 percent from Jan. 1, 2001, through Oct. 1, 2003. As a result, all drivers subject to payment of a Vehicle Licensing Fee on or after Oct. 1, have seen their fee increase to a little more than triple what they were paying last year.
While the DMV does not offer any sort of payment plan for vehicle owners who cannot afford to pay the increased fees all at once, Branch did mention that vehicle registrations renewed via telephone or over the Internet can be paid for by credit card, which may allow owners to pay off the charges over time.
While the DMV collects the new, higher fees, they were not involved in pulling the trigger to increase them. That came about as the result of the state’s current budget crisis.
According to the DMV’s Web site, “Revenue and Taxation Code Section 10754, which originally provided for the VLF offset, also provided for the elimination of the VLF offset when there were insufficient monies in the General Fund. The department has been officially notified that there are insufficient monies in the General Fund to fund an offset. Therefore, fees are being computed without the offset.”
Regardless of why registration fees have gone up, local residents were not pleased.
John Krumme of Tahoe City hopes that newly-elected Governor Schwarzenegger will eliminate the fee increase.
“I’m hoping Arnie knocks them out,” Krumme said.
With five cars to register, Krumme paid approximately $2,500 last year in VLF fees. This year he expects to have to pay almost triple that much — an amount he believes to be unfair.
Krumme said he feels the increased fees will only provide more incentive for people to avoid paying other taxes. He argues that there should be a flat fee for registering any vehicle regardless of its cost, noting that the cost of keeping track of all vehicles under the California DMV’s jurisdiction is the same.
Tab Strada of Tahoe City took the new fees in stride. The registration for the 1998 Subaru he just bought cost him approximately $600, a figure that surprised him even though he was aware that there had been a VLF discount for a number of years.
“They had to raise something, and I guess this was as easy as anything,” Strada said, adding, “I have to drive, so what do you do? I just keep on working, I guess.”
Scott Miller, a Donner Lake resident for 10 years, didn’t even think about not registering his new truck. He just bought a 2003 Dodge Dakota pickup which cost him $693 to register.
“I knew the fee would be high,” Miller said. “Driving a nice ride means you have to pay.”
Although Miller’s registration fee was not unexpected, he felt that Californians are not getting their money’s worth.
“I just paid almost $700 bucks. The guy in front of me paid $400 and the guy before him paid $200, so we’re up over $1,000 just between the three of us… It’s ridiculous.”
Vehicle owners looking for more information about the VLF increase can go to http://www.dmv.ca.gov. This site can also be used to renew eligible vehicle registrations, as can the DMV’s telephone renewal line at (800) 777-0133.
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