Limited Taxation
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CLT Update
Friday, September 10, 1999

Some of the Bacon Hill pols still don't get it, like House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Paul R. Haley, D-Weymouth. He thinks he's found another excuse to increase Registry fees, because up on Bacon Hill, any excuse to pick our pockets usually is a good enough excuse!

In his woe-is-me moaning and his memo [below] he forgets to mention one tiny little detail about the Registry of Motor Vehicles finances: It's raking in a clear, unadulterated annual profit of over THREE HUNDRED MILLION DOLLARS of our money -- money which it expropriates from us quite illegally, I must add.

For details of the law and our 1989-92 court challenge of increased fees, go to:

CLT Memo to the State Legislature
Registry of Motor Vehicles Fee Increases:  CLT Will Go Back to Court

- or -
The 1989-'92 Freedom First/CLT Fees Challenge

You can e-mail Rep. Paul R. Haley, D-Weymouth at. Apparently he needs to be reminded that under the law a fee cannot be more than the cost of providing the service, and Registry fees already violate that requirement, even without raising them a cent more.

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Chip Ford

The Boston Herald
Thursday, September 9, 1999

House budget boss sees no Registry fix with fee cuts
by Laura Brown

Gov. Paul Cellucci should scrap an ongoing rollback of vehicle license and registration fees if he wants to improve service at the troubled Registry of Motor Vehicles, the House Ways and Means chairman said yesterday.

Something's got to give at some point -- I just don't think people are being fiscally real in this," said House budget chief Rep. Paul R. Haley (D-Weymouth.)

A Cellucci spokesman dismissed Haley's comments as a typical legislative response."

We think we can improve the Registry and cut fees at the same time," said spokesman Jason Kauppi. Obviously Paul Haley doesn't care about keeping the money in the pockets of the citizens."

On Tuesday, the Public Safety Committee chairmen called for a series of improvements to make the Registry more friendly to consumers, but conceded better service might cost more money.

The license and registration fee rollback launched by former Gov. William F. Weld during his unsuccessful 1996 U.S. Senate campaign will cost the state $110 million in lost revenues that could be directed toward Registry improvements, Haley argued.

It was a gimmick by Weld," the Ways and Means chairman added. He said we would save money by streamlining these operations, but instead, the cost continues to go up."

The cost of operating the Registry has skyrocketed from $40 million per year to $50 million per year over the past three years and the agency is still plagued by service problems, Haley said.

A badly needed new phone system at the Registry would cost another $5 million, the chairman noted.

Am I going to steal from education or take it out of home health care?" he added. I think that asking folks to support a fee for a better service makes sense."

In a veiled reference to a rumored gubernatorial bid by Senate President Thomas Birmingham (D-Chelsea), Haley acknowledged that he does not have enough support on Beacon Hill to push through legislation to reimpose the fees.

Governor Cellucci wants to forgo all that revenue, and there are others in the State House with statewide ambitions that aren't willing to support the reinstatement of these fees even though they know that they're needed," Haley said in a prepared statement.

Birmingham yesterday reiterated his support for the fee rollback. I cannot justify in these best of economic times increasing Registry fees," he said.

Cellucci is expected to appoint Consumer Affairs chief Daniel Grabauskas today to take over the Registry.

We think he's really going to whip the Registry into shape," Kauppi said.

The Boston Herald
Friday, September 10, 1999

New boss vows to whip Registry into good shape
by Cosmo Macero Jr.

New Registrar of Motor Vehicles Dan Grabauskas yesterday pledged to crush the "lackadaisical" culture at one of the state's most vexing agencies.

He also said drivers won't be soaked for improvements and casted aside suggestions from a top House leader that millions in fees be reinstated at the Registry.

"I ... don't think what needs to be done is rocket science," said Grabauskas, the Cellucci administration's Consumer Affairs chief, who was tapped by the governor to reintroduce good customer service at the Registry of Motor Vehicles.

"I pledge a zero tolerance policy for long waits, discourteous behavior, inaccuracies and untidy Registry offices."

At a press conference to announce his appointment, Gov. Paul Cellucci called Grabauskas "one of the best leaders in our administration."

"It will not be business as usual at the Registry," Cellucci said.

The administration is trying to fix the Registry's tattered image with consumers, which further worsened under ousted Registrar Richard Lyons. A legislative report released last week called for more "resources" to be directed to the agency. That was interpreted by House Ways and Means Chairman Paul Haley (D-Weymouth) as a call to reinstate $110 million worth of license and registration fees which were eliminated on the watch of Cellucci and former Gov. William F. Weld. But Grabauskas, who promised to attack the agency's "lackadaisical and not necessarily friendly attitude," said the Registry's $61 million operating budget, and any more that may be needed, is easily covered by the $370 million the agency takes in every year.

"There is more than enough money to run the Registry," he said. "It costs nothing to say 'Good morning.'"


Commonwealth of Massachusetts
House of Representatives
Committee on Ways and Means

September 8, 1999
Contact: Kim Rezendes 722-2700

Statement of Chairman Haley
regarding the Joint Public Safety Committee's proposal
for Registry of Motor Vehicle improvements:

     It is of no surprise to me that drivers are upset with service at the registry. I think most drivers appreciate that you get what you pay for. Operating the registry at current levels will cost the taxpayers $50 million this year. That operating cost is up more than $10 million from just four years ago. Currently only 1 of 8 calls made to the registry is answered. A registry staff of 67 answers 10,000 calls each day, but another 80,000 calls are attempted only to receive a busy signal.

     Three years ago the registry was operating at $40 million per year and the Weld/Cellucci Administration said at the time they would save money and increase efficiency by streamlining the registry. Instead what we've got is the need for a new phone system and additional staff and service that gets worse by the day.

     The recommendations of the Joint Public Safety Committee conclude we need to direct more resources to the Registry of Motor Vehicles.

     The problem is, the Cellucci Administration is in the process of scaling back license and registration fees to the tune of $110 million a year. Providing a free car registration costs the Commonwealth $55 million per year and the revenue loss from license fees will cost $45 million per year once fully phased in during fiscal year 2001.

     But Governor Cellucci wants to forego all that revenue, and there are others in the State House with statewide ambitions that aren't willing to support the reinstatement of these fees even though they know that they're needed.

     It is unfair for all of the taxpayers to subsidize a service that only some of the taxpayers benefit from. In the instance of the registry a user fee is truly appropriate. In the absence of these user fees, I am not prepared to steal resources from other departments to subsidize these operations.

     How can the state possibly support better service at the registry if we're going to continue to lose revenue? I don't know which services at other agencies to cut in order to fund needed improvements at the registry.

     In the wake of these fee cutbacks and the proposed expansion, there just isn't going to be room in the state's budget to buttress those who want to cut taxes back to the level of ten years ago or those who wish to expand programmatic spending. I am hopeful the administration and the senate will revisit this issue.

     I think the public understands user fees are justified and I also think the public is willing to pay reasonable fees that have been adjusted for inflation in order to receive better service. But we have a governor who feels that there should never be any increases in any fee structures -- even adjusting for inflation -- and at the same time feels borrowing long into the future to subsidize both day to day operations and infrastructure improvements is appropriate.

     I have received calls from many of my constituents who don't mind paying the license and registration fees. In fact, some who received a renewal form in the mail and saw that there was no cost associated with renewing their registration and license wondered if there had been some mistake and if they should send a check into the registry to avoid any problems. These constituents were prepared to pay a reasonable fee with the guarantee of better service.



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