California vehicle fee increase one step closer to reality

By Keith Goble, Land Line state legislative editor | 8/18/2014

More California drivers could soon be paying a little bit extra in fees to support fingerprint identification programs.

The Assembly voted 42-32 to advance a bill to Gov. Jerry Brown’s desk that would permit counties to increase vehicle registration fees to set up ID programs. Senate lawmakers previously approved the bill on a 21-13 vote.

Since 1997, California law has authorized counties to charge $1 surcharges on car registrations while trucks can be charged $2. The revenue is used for fingerprint identification programs.

AB2393 would permit the 45 counties already charging vehicle registration fees for fingerprinting ID 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 surcharge to pay for additional California Highway Patrol officers; and other county fees that may be included.

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

“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.

Republicans contend that the fee increase falls under the category of a special tax, which requires 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.

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