Anger at fee hikes should be no surprise

Here we are, just a few days into Colorado’s new fiscal year — the time when many of the new laws passed by the Legislature take effect — and state officials are already examining how to fix part of one of those laws.

In this case, we believe a fix is needed. But it should have been done during the last legislative session, not postponed until the next one.

The law in question raises registration fees on nearly every vehicle in the state. Beginning this month, when Colorado motorists sign up to renew their vehicle registration, they will see the increased fee reflected in the bill they pay.

But one part of that bill actually took effect June 1. It raises the fee that people pay for being late on a registration renewal, or for letting the registration lapse on a vehicle that is not used regularly. Previously, there was an additional $10 fee for late or lapsed vehicle registrations.

Now it is at least $25, and will go as high as $100 if the registration is four months or more out of date.

Not surprisingly, many people are upset with that, especially those with vehicles they don’t have on the road continuously. Among those irate are people with, say, boat trailers they use only during the summer or old vehicles they are repairing or restoring, which they don’t want to register until they are roadworthy.

Some of those angry with the new fees have made their gripes known to state legislators or the governor’s office. This newspaper has received messages about it and published a letter to the editor objecting to the late fees.

According to The Denver Post, Gov. Bill Ritter is planning to work with state lawmakers when the Legislature convenes next January to “tweak” the late-fee provisions and make them less onerous.

Good for the governor. It needs to be done. But neither Ritter nor members of the Legislature should be surprised at the complaints. Some people were raising questions about those late fees well before the Legislature adjourned in May.

They also ought not be surprised if a significant number of motorists start objecting to the overall increase in vehicle registration fees that they will see beginning this month. The average increase is about $32 the first year (increasing over three years) but it will be more for larger vehicles, regardless of age. And people who pull horse trailers, boat trailers, campers and utility trailers will also see fee increases.

We continue to believe, as we said back in February, that these fees are hitting Coloradans at exactly the wrong time, in the midst of the current economic crisis.


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