California vehicle fee increase sought

By Keith Goble, Land Line state legislative editor | Friday, May 30, 2014

California drivers could soon be paying a few dollars more in fees to support fingerprint identification programs.

The Assembly voted 41-27 to advance a bill to the Senate that would permit counties to increase vehicle registration fees to set up ID programs.

Assemblyman Marc Levine, D-San Rafael, described the bill as aiding “law enforcement to identify criminals while on the beat” more quickly.

The bill would permit the 45 counties already charging vehicle registration fees for fingerprint identification programs to increase the amount. Specifically, affected counties could charge $2 on car registration fees – up from $1. Trucks would pay $4 – up from $2.

The 13 counties not already applying a charge on vehicle registrations could implement the fees.

About $29.8 million a year is raised through the fingerprint fee.

The fees are in addition to the $46 base charge, which includes $1 for programs to encourage the voluntary retirement of vehicles that include high-polluting medium-duty trucks; a $24 fee to pay for additional California Highway Patrol officers; and other county fees that may be included.

Levine said the bill simply gives local law enforcement the tools needed to help keep their communities safe.

“Technological developments and infractions have reduced the purchasing power of the proceeds of an existing fee authority that funds automated fingerprint identification,” Levine stated in the bill analysis.

Critics contend that the fee increase falls under the category of a special tax, which would require a two-thirds vote for approval in the Assembly and Senate.

Levine wrote that the fee doesn’t fall into that category because it doesn’t directly result in a taxpayer paying a higher tax. Instead, he said it is up to counties to determine the appropriate vote threshold.

A separate bill met its demise this week. It sought to route truck weights fees to fixing roads.

Since 2011, revenue from truck weight fees is routed to the state’s general fund. Previously, the fees were used for maintenance and rehabilitation of state highways.

Assemblyman Henry Perea, D-Fresno, said AB2728 would redirect an estimated $1 billion in fee revenue to its original purpose.

The bill failed to advance from committee prior to a deadline, effectively killing it for the year.

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