Motor vehicle registration hike proposed in North Dakota

| 12/14/2004

In a state with more registered vehicles than residents, North Dakota Gov. John Hoeven on Dec. 8 proposed adding $15 to the cost of licensing each vehicle, including large trucks.

The fee increase, part of the governor’s $5.5 billion budget proposal, would generate $20 million during the next two years.

Hoeven, a Republican, said the increase was necessary to supplement federal highway aid that the state relies on for road construction and repairs. The registration increase would allow the state to gets its maximum share of federal highway aid, Hoeven said.

The state has fallen $6 million short in matching funds in the past two years.

Legislators predicted extensive debates about whether the needed state highway construction funds should be raised by increasing registration fees, or by bumping up the state’s motor fuels tax, which is now 21 cents per gallon for gasoline, ethanol-blended gas and diesel fuel.

House Minority Leader Merle Boucher, D-Rolette, said he prefers raising the state’s fuel tax by a penny – a proposal rejected by the 2003 General Assembly – so out-of-state drivers pay their share of highway maintenance.

“I couldn’t, as we speak today, vote for an increase in registration,” he told The Forum.

Senate Majority Leader Bob Stenehjem, R-Bismarck, said he generally doesn’t favor tax increases of any sort.

“However, I have always supported making the match for federal highway funds,” he said. “And I think the citizens want us to and we need to make those matches.”

State lawmakers raised registration for most vehicles by $7 in 2001 and $3 in 2003.

Registration fee amounts depend on a vehicle’s age and weight. Hoeven’s proposed increase would affect more than 670,000 vehicles registered in the state. Snowmobiles, motorcycles, boats and trailers would not be affected.