Plan would increase vehicle fees

March 17, 2004|by LAURA ERNDE

A stripped-down version of Gov. Robert Ehrlich's plan to raise money for transportation projects was approved Tuesday by a House committee.

A proposed increase in vehicle registration fees remained the core of the plan, which the House Ways and Means Committee voted for 12-8.

Under the plan, car registrations, renewed every other year, would increase from $81 to $128. Passenger truck registrations would go from $108 to $180.


Del. LeRoy E. Myers, R-Allegany/Washington, and Del. Robert A. McKee, R-Washington, both voted in favor, arguing that the plan is preferable to increasing the gas tax to raise money for needed transportation projects.

McKee attempted to lower the increase for senior citizens, proposing that those over 70 pay half the proposed increase.

The committee overwhelmingly rejected his amendment.

The vehicle registration fee increase is expected to generate about $153 million a year.

Along with other miscellaneous fee increases, the plan is expected to raise $220 million, which is about $100 million less than originally proposed.

Other elements of the plan were taken out, including proposed surcharges on drunk driving convictions and other traffic violations.

The House Judiciary Committee is reviewing that part of the plan, but has killed similar proposals in the past.

Del. Joseph Bartlett was the lone Republican in the committee to vote against the plan.

Bartlett, R-Frederick, said he respects what Ehrlich is trying to do considering what he called "mismanagement" of the transportation budget by the previous administration.

However, he could not support the plan because of his strong aversion to fee increases.

"I kind of think of it as two wrongs trying to make a right," he said.

Some lawmakers who supported the plan said they have reservations about its fairness, saying a gas tax would spread the burden more equally.

Others were concerned it does not raise enough money for transportation.

"I'm in a situation where half a loaf is better than none," said Del. Jean Cryor, R-Montgomery.

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