State House News Service
Tuesday, April 25, 2000
Daily State House Schedule
11:30 ... Executive Office of Administration and
Finance holds public hearing on Gov. Paul Cellucci's plans to end the phase-out of
driver's license renewal fees. Cellucci is administratively stopping the plan started by
former Gov. William Weld to ensure the state has enough money to pay for the Big Dig cost
overrun ... Room 373
To: Executive Office of Administration and
Melissa Cummings, Legislative Director
Tuesday, April 25, 2000
Re: Registry of Motor Vehicles Fee
In our 1989 lawsuit challenging the Dukakis fee increases (Ford et al. v. Secretary of
Administration and Finance Edward Lashman, Suffolk Superior Court #89-2288-C) we pointed
out that the definition and proper use of fees was established in a previous case before
the state Supreme Judicial Court, Emerson College v. City of Boston, 391 Mass. 415 (1984).
In February of 1991, the Weld administration agreed to
settle our lawsuit out-of-court: to review all fees and adjust them to reflect solely the
cost of providing the service, as required by the Emerson decision. Thus, Registry of
Motor Vehicle (and other) fees were lowered or removed.
If the Secretary of Administration and Finance and the
Legislature violate this settlement and renege on our agreement, it will leave CLT with no
option but to return to court and reopen our lawsuit.
All parties should understand that CLT will then be
forced to target not only the proposed new RMV fee increases -- but the hundreds of
millions of revenue dollars above the legally permissible $57.6 million operating cost for
providing the service.
In Emerson, the court noted that there are generally
two types of fees:
Further, the court found, there are "common
traits that distinguish them from taxes," as summarized below:
An exposť last year by the Lawrence Eagle-Tribune
("No competition, no regard," by John Macone, July 5, 1999) indicated that the
Registry of Motor Vehicles still is violating the law and ignoring our out-of-court
The Eagle-Tribune reported: "With $807
million in revenue last year, it is the second-biggest generator of money for the state
... outdone only by the massive state Department of Revenue, which collects income and
sales taxes. That income represents about 8 percent of the state's entire budget of $20.5
Its follow-up editorial noted: "The agency rakes
in $14 in revenues for every $1 it spends on operations -- $807 million last year on a
budget of $57.6 million."
Discounting that $438 million of that $807 million in
last year accounts for auto sales/use taxes collected by the RMV, this still leaves $369
million in Registry revenue.
Certainly this amount already grossly exceeds any
reasonable cost for providing the service, as the court defined the criteria in Emerson.
Under the Emerson decision, fees charged to administer
drivers licensing and auto registration clearly cannot be diverted to road and bridge
construction costs or anything else (ie., the state Highway Fund benefits non-drivers via
mass transportation projects, and non-state residents who regularly use the state's roads,
so by law cannot be funded by fees).
Registry fee increases are clearly illegal when the
publicly stated purpose for the additional revenue is to bail-out Big Dig "cost
Before you approve any Registry fee increase, please
recognize: Any fee increase is also your invitation for us to reopen CLT's lawsuit.
Thank you for your attention.