Agency Recommends Increasing Transportation Fees
A bill to raise many motor vehicle fees is pending in the Vermont House.
State transportation officials say the bill must be passed quickly, so they can do the work to get the fees in place later this year.
VPR's John Dillon reports.
The last time the state raised motor vehicle fees across the board was 1989.
This year, the Transportation Agency faces a $4 million shortfall to pay for highway projects. Next year, the shortage is expected to be $12 million.
But money is tight everywhere in Montpelier. So state officials want to charge Vermonters more to register a car, transfer a title, or renew a driver's license.
Under the state plan, for example, the annual fee to register your car would rise from $43 to $50.
This fall, a special legislative study committee recommended the fee increase. The House Ways and Means Committee heard testimony on the bill last week.
Motor Vehicles Commissioner Bonnie Rutledge says she hopes the legislation passes soon:
(Rutledge) "It's not just a matter of flicking a little switch and changing the fee. We have over 200 forms that will need to be changed. We have programming that needs to be done¿ So there are quite a few things that need to take place before the fees can actually take effect. So we were recommending to the legislature that it be passed somewhere between February 3-10 to give us ample time to implement these by July 1."
The Legislature is also being asked to use the transportation fee bill to help public transportation.
Brian Dunkiel, a lawyer who represents the Friends of the Earth Environmental Group, says Vermont is eligible for $7 million a year in federal public transportation funds. But Dunkiel says Vermont can't get those funds unless it has a state revenue source to match the federal money.
(Dunkiel) "The reason why the State of Vermont can't access what's more than $7 million a year in federal funding is because, number 1, the state doesn't have a 20-year plan for public transportation. And number two, the state doesn't have a revenue source for public transportation. What this bill does¿ is present an excellent opportunity to establish that revenue source. So it could bring an additional $7.2 - $7.6 million per year for public transit."
The House Ways and Means Committee is expected to finish work on the fee bill this week.
For Vermont Public Radio, I'm John Dillon.