Editorial: New vehicle registration fee is tax in disguise
Vehicle registration fees are set to increase by $32 on every vehicle, and Prescott residents are none too happy about it.
The idea surfaced in February to finance the Highway Patrol as well as needed road repairs across the state. The concept was to increase vehicle registration fees to raise the money.
Rep. Noel Campbell of Prescott wanted to increase the tax on gasoline instead. His logic was all motorists would then pay for the needs and damage they do to roadways across the state. The tax has been unchanged since 1991, which does not bring in enough to meet all state and local road needs.
Instead, because Gov. Doug Ducey did not want tax increases enacted on his watch, lawmakers approved what amounted to a blank check for the Arizona Department of Transportation. Estimates were at about $18 per vehicle for the fee hike; this past week ADOT announced the fee will be nearly double that, $32 per vehicle.
It is a tax labeled as a fee.
News of the higher increase was upsetting for Campbell, who said: “That amount was not broached,” adding that “$17 or $18 was what the fee they told us we’d be dealing with.”
The decision was made by John Halikowski, head of ADOT. He stated needs were greater than anticipated. Also, legislative staffers had thought the cost would be paid by 8.3 million vehicle owners. They did not figure in that many are pre-paid, some are government vehicles and others are owned by nonprofits.
Fewer people paying the fee results in more needing to come from each person to still raise the amount of money needed.
One resident replied, “Isn’t this something we normally vote on? … Don’t we already pay taxes to support the highway patrol? How can they just spring this on us?”
“That’s just not right,” another reader said. “I think everyone should pay, especially out of staters; they buy gas too.”
The highways and funding needs to support DPS and ADOT services should not fall only on residents who own cars. People from out of state cause expenses too, and they buy gas here.
This is the result of the Legislature’s leadership not holding ADOT’s feet to the fire and not following through on the promises they make. Raise the gas tax, if you must, because this fee increase is inequitable.
Increasing the gas tax would be so much fairer, if all who use our roads would pay, not only residents.