By Brent Addleman | The Center Square
Debate over raising Department of Motor Vehicle fees is brewing in Vermont.
With House Bill 479 sitting with the Senate Committee on Transportation, Republican Gov. Phil Scott and Joe Flynn, who serves as secretary of the Transportation Department, denounced the bill’s efforts to raise Department of Motor Vehicle fees by 20%.
The bill passed out of the House of Representatives on March 30 with a 100-39 vote, surpassing the 70 votes needed to advance the bill.
According to the fiscal note affixed to the bill, adjusting “most fees” by the Department of Motor Vehicles reflects “inflationary growth.” The last time fees were adjusted was July 1, 2016.
The adjustment calls for a 19.8% increase, according to the note, which reflects commensurate growth to the price index, and would net the department $20.5 million in additional revenue to the Transportation Fund.
Scott called the fees “regressive” and “not needed,” saying Vermont is sitting on “a historic amount of funding.”
“When I became governor, I told Vermonters that raising taxes and fees would be our last resort,” the governor said during his weekly press conference Friday morning. “Because across the state, they told me repeatedly. They weren’t sure they could afford to live here anymore, and it’s no secret that Vermont has one of the highest tax burdens in the nation. So, we’ve held the line against raising taxes and fees ever since without cuts to programs.
“In fact, quite the opposite. We’ve actually seen organic revenue growth, which we’ve used to fund new initiatives, and couple that with a historic amount of funding, Vermont is in better financial shape than I can ever remember.”
Scott said raising fees on Vermonters would be “unfair” in the face of inflating prices for food, fuel and rent.
The Republican governor said the fees would affect driver’s licenses, permit renewals, and car, truck and trailer registrations. He also pointed to the fact that during testimony when hearing the bill in the House, the Department of Motor Vehicles said, “they don’t need the money.”
Flynn said that under Scott the department has delivered “seven consecutive transportation budgets without once increasing DMV fees.” He went on to say that two of those budgets “are of record size.”
“Also included in this year’s budget, as you heard, is a request to the Legislature to set aside $80 million from the general fund tax surplus to secure Vermont’s monetary share for construction projects and maintenance across fiscal years 2024, 2025 and 2026,” Flynn said. “The House budget, though, is suggesting to increase the DMV fees, resulting in Vermonters paying 20% more and collecting another $20 million across the board.”
Rep. Charles “Butch” Shaw, R-Rutland, said the bill originally did not have the $20 million in fees attached to the bill when it left the House committee. The fees were later attached, he said, by the House Ways and Means Committee. He said with the fees attached, he did not vote for the bill’s passage.
“Well, I think raising the fees for people that use DMV services is just not right,” said Shaw, vice chairman of the House committee. “That is a big chunk for foils to swallow, especially for folks that are living paycheck-to-paycheck.”