GOP: Cap late fee on vehicles

Republicans in the Colorado House are trying again to do away with a controversial late fee on vehicle registrations approved two years ago.

Senate Democrats are expected to kill House Bill 1084 if it gets that far, but the GOP-controlled House Transportation Committee approved on a 7-6 party-line vote Thursday Rep. Randy Baumgardner’s measure to return the state to the previous $10 late fee that county clerks can waive at their discretion.

Currently, the fee for registering vehicles late is $25 a month, capped at $100.

“By 2012, the average family from the state of Colorado’s license-plate-registration fee increase would have went up $86,” the Hot Sulphur Springs Republican told the committee. “To a lot of the families ... that are struggling week to week, day to day, that’s a lot of money.”

Republicans long have opposed the 2009 law that increased vehicle-registration fees to raise about $250 million for transportation projects. But they particularly have disliked the late fee, saying it doesn’t take into account that some people may not always need to register a vehicle each year.

Rep. Robert Ramirez, R-Westminster, said he and his wife, Suzanne, occasionally ride motorcycles in the summer, but not every year. As a result, he doesn’t always renew his registration and, because of the late fee, plans to sell the bikes instead, he told Baumgardner.

The measure, which would reduce state revenues by about $25 million a year, is expected to have a tough time elsewhere in the Legislature, where other lawmakers are concerned the state won’t be able to afford to lose that money because of a $1 billion revenue shortfall. About $15 million of that money goes into the State Highway Fund, while $5.5 million goes to counties and $4.5 million to cities to pay for local transportation needs.

Mark Radtke, legislative and policy advocate for the Colorado Municipal League, said the late fee initially came about because new residents to the state were waiting more than three months to register their vehicles after moving here, as required by law. At the time, few knew that Colorado residents, too, were failing to follow the law and renew their registrations as well, he said.

“It’s just a matter of personal responsibility,” Radtke said. “It’s an easy thing to do. You get your registration notification in the mail, you write the check and mail it back in. It’s a matter of fairness to all Colorado citizens to comply with the law.”

In a related matter, the committee gave unanimous approval to a measure designed to repair problems with the way farm equipment is taxed when it’s not being used for agricultural purposes.

By law, all farming and ranching trailers and vehicles are not subject to an ownership tax, as all other vehicles are. But oftentimes, such equipment is used for other purposes, such as construction, said Rep. Laura Bradford, R-Collbran.

Her measure, which won unanimous approval in the committee, extends from one day to three, the amount of time a farm vehicle can be used for non-agricultural purposes without having to pay the tax.


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