BOSTON -- The Registry of Motor Vehicles is breaking the law by collecting $14 for
every $1 it spends on service, says a taxpayer group that is threatening to sue to stop
"I don't know how they can get away with it," said Chip Ford of Citizens
for Limited Taxation, who cited an Eagle-Tribune report on the registry.
The report found the registry has become a "cash cow" for the state,
collecting $807 million in revenues last year, including $375 million from license and
Under state law, fees can be charged only to offset the cost of the service
provided. Massachusetts is spending registry fees to help offset the cost of Boston's Big
Dig, among other things.
Citizens for Limited Taxation sued the state once before over registry fees. The
case was settled out of court when the state agreed to grant "lifetime" driver's
licenses and registrations.
But some legislative leaders are now mustering support for a plan to squeeze
another $100 million in fees out of drivers by going back to the system that made
motorists pay $33.50 for registrations every two years and $35 for licenses every five
Rep. Joseph Sullivan, D-Braintree, says the extra fees are needed to provide a
"revenue stream" to pay for other projects.
Mr. Ford said that would violate the out-of-court settlement and would force his
group to go back to court.
But he said this time the group would target the entire registry budget.
Since it now costs about $60 million to run the registry, Mr. Ford argued fees
would have to be cut to that figure from the current $375 million.
"If we win, they lose everything," he said. "They've got to be out
of their minds to put hundreds of millions of dollars at risk to get $100 million they
know they can't get."
Mr. Ford said he had tried to find out how much money the Registry of Motor
Vehicles was bringing in through license and registration fees, but officials there would
not provide the figures he requested.
He finally found some of those figures in a story published in The Eagle-Tribune
He said the story showed him the state "is violating the law and ignoring our
Top lawmakers on the Joint Transportation Committee have argued the state faces
financial troubles ahead due to the cost of the Big Dig and other road projects.
More money needs to be brought in to pay for them, and registration and license
fees are a logical place to start.
Drivers should be paying for the cost of providing roads through their license and
registration fees, argued Chairman Robert A. Havern, D-Arlington.
But Mr. Ford argued that is a misuse of the fees and a violation of the state
constitution. Specific taxes, such as the one paid on gasoline at the pump, are meant for
Four members and leaders of the Joint Transportation Committee did not returns
calls from The Eagle-Tribune. No Merrimack Valley lawmakers serve on the committee.