Out of Control Policy Blog

State Budget Woes Bring Longer DMV Lines, Higher Fees

Much to the chagrin of many Americans, widespread state fiscal crises are threatening to make an already unpleasant experience even worse. As Stateline.org reports today, prepare to pay more for the priviledge of standing in longer DMV lines:

Drivers going to the department of motor vehicles will likely face longer lines and higher service fees in several states as recession-ravaged budgets force the shutdown of branch offices, a reduced work force and the need to raise revenue.

California, Massachusetts, Nevada, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina and Washington are among those states where funding cuts have closed some branch offices. Several states are also managing department cuts through layoffs, hiring freezes and furloughs. [...]

Staff layoffs are considered a last resort for many agencies, but some states, including Nevada and Virginia, have gone that route, and Massachusetts will also likely cut staff. New Jersey, Colorado, Connecticut, Illinois and Virginia have ordered hiring freezes, which means leaving positions unfilled if an employee quits or retires, piling more work onto the remaining workers.

Other states, including California, Wisconsin, New Jersey, Colorado, Nevada, Illinois and Connecticut, have forced employees to take furloughs, or mandatory days off without pay.

California's furloughs for all state employees during the last three Fridays in July caused motor vehicle offices to shut down, resulting in longer lines on days the agency was open. In Nevada, state workers were allowed to choose one day a month to take a furlough.

While already cash cows, some motor vehicle departments are raising driver's license and vehicle registration fees to generate even more revenue. [...]

The Massachusetts motor vehicle department is the second-highest revenue-generating government agency in the state, bringing in $1.4 billion to the general fund last year. The department has increased its commercial fees and will implement higher licensing and registration fees.

Colorado raised registration fees to help cover the cost of bridge and road maintenance, an unpopular decision that has prompted the department to hire off-duty police officers to keep the offices safe. California raised its vehicle licensing fees in May to help reduce the state’s $42 billion budget deficit. Its department earned $6.6 billion in revenue last year, with the proceeds going to the department, to surrounding municipalities and to the California Highway Patrol.

Nevada, Florida, Virginia, Vermont, New Jersey, New York and Illinois have also increased fees.

Leonard Gilroy is Director of Government Reform


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