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Tuesday, September 16, 2014
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Published: Sunday, 2/14/2010

Sneaky fees fool no one

POLITICIANS who lack the fortitude to raise taxes to provide revenue for vital state services seem to have no reservations about approving all sorts of fee increases.

But occasionally, their sneaky attempts to get around higher taxes with higher fees backfire and force them to backpedal.

That's apparently what's happening with the hugely unpopular late fee lawmakers quietly tacked onto the state transportation budget bill last year. In October, the Ohio Bureau of Motor Vehicles began charging people $20 if they were late to register their vehicle or to renew their driver's license.

The fee generated $6.4 million for the state Highway Patrol in the first three months it was in place. But as word got out about the fee, which many motorists consider a punitive, money-making tool, the public backlash prompted the General Assembly to react. Thirty-eight lawmakers, primarily Republicans, signed onto a House bill to eliminate the fee.

A number of them - including one of the bill's principal sponsors, Republican Ron Amstutz of Wooster - voted for the late fee, which doubled from $10 to $20 during the legislative process. But what a difference angry constituents can make.

Anticipating even more heat from dismayed Ohioans as they renew registrations on seasonal vehicles, politicians urgently want the Bureau of Motor Vehicles to drop the late fee. Gov. Ted Strickland says he'd consider their proposal if it came with a plan to replace the money the fee would raise this fiscal year.

It doesn't.

But lawmakers may come up with another sneaky fee to use as a budget-balancing act, while publicly grandstanding against higher taxes and pretending no one is the wiser.



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