Editorial: Florida lawmakers should pass bill that would return vehicle fees to previous levels
Posted September 28, 2009 at 1 a.m.
Are you outraged Florida lawmakers recently doubled the cost of a driver’s license — from $24 to $48? Or the vehicle registration fee for a mid-sized car — from $36.10 to $57.65?
These are just two of dozens of driving-related fees, effective Sept. 1, hiked by state lawmakers during the 2009 legislative session.
If you’re angry, there may be hope.
House Bill 99, sponsored by Rep. Ron Saunders, D-Tavernier, and cosponsored by Rep. Debbie Boyd, D-Newberry, would reset all fees to where they were before lawmakers reached deeper into our pockets to help fund a $6 billion shortfall in the state budget.
Saunders plans to file the bill during the 2010 session.
“Motor vehicle fee increases take more and more money out of citizens’ and businesses’ pockets,” Boyd said. “That’s not a good way to stimulate a bad economy.”
She’s correct. You don’t stimulate an ailing economy by increasing transportation costs for businesses and consumers.
Boyd recently toured Florida Septic Inc. in Hawthorne. She said half of the vehicle fleet was sitting idle.
“The company had to lay off 50 people because there weren’t enough orders for product. It costs about $25,000 just to register those vehicles with the state.”
Thanks to lawmakers, that expense includes about a 35 percent increase in registration fees.
Senate Bill 1778 was the notorious piece of legislation that boosted dozens of fees. The inflated fee schedule is projected to generate about $800 million in state revenue.
If, by nothing short of a miracle, the Legislature passes HB 99, how would lawmakers fill the $800 million hole it would create in the budget?
“That question needs to be a part of the overall budgetary discussion,” said Boyd, who quickly pointed to recent reforms implemented by Alex Sink, the state’s chief financial officer and head of the Florida Department of Financial Services. Sink disconnected dozens of BlackBerrys, cell phones and air cards, and has projected annual savings of more than $200,000 in the department’s expenditures for wireless communication.
“We need to be more efficient in government,” Boyd said.
The Government Cost Savings Task Force, a 30-member organization formed by the 2009 Legislature to improve efficiency and increase innovation in state government, has been developing ideas that could save the state as much as $4 billion.
Greater efficiency and innovation is one of the key solutions to Florida’s budget woes. Lawmakers erred when they tapped motorists to help balance the budget.