Fee or Tax? Either Shows Failure

The vehicle registration fee enacted last April by Governor Ducey and the Republican Legislature is showing up on registration renewal notices and causing an internal firefight among Republicans.  The underlying problem for all Arizona Republicans is their failure to recognize that governing costs money and someone has got to pay for it. In this case, the issue is road maintenance and construction and pay for the Highway Patrol.

For years Republicans in control of the state budget have taken funds from road construction and maintenance to pay for patrolling those roads. Facing an election where potholes and congestion were going to be used as cudgels against their legislative candidates, they passed a law last April to give the Department of Transportation the authority to impose an additional fee on drivers — and to calculate the fee itself; thus, avoiding having the legislature take responsibility for any particular amount imposed on vehicle owners in an election year.

And, by the way, the Legislature took care to call this a “fee,” not a tax increase; thus, persuading Governor Ducey to sign the bill and allowing him to maintain his slogan about balancing the budget with no new “taxes.”

Now, the new fee is showing up on vehicle registration renewal forms and legislators are hearing howls from their constituents, in part because it’s nearly twice as high as the number they (mis)estimated last Spring. So some Republican’s are talking about repealing the fee as their first action in the new legislative session.

That will bring Arizona right back to the underlying question: How do we pay for our roads and the public servants who patrol them? But that’s a question of governing that Republicans will continue to make every effort to avoid.

Arizona lawmaker proposes repeal of $32 car registration fee, AZCentral.com 12/8/2018

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