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March 4, 2014

Mass. RMV fee hikes in the works

EVERETT - Tasked with developing a portion of its own revenue, the Massachusetts Department of Transportation is closing in on plans to raise Registry of Motor Vehicle fees, in addition to the previously announced 5 percent increase in MBTA fares.

Registrar of Motor Vehicles Celia Blue told the State House News Service the RMV has still not yet determined the size of the fee increase and will make a presentation to the state Transportation Board on March 19.

Massachusetts Department of Transportation officials in late January described Registry fees as “the only viable revenue source” to close a projected $55 million budget gap for fiscal 2015. The Registry collected $550 million in revenue in 2013, including $134 million in motor vehicle inspection fees. Registration fees, title certificates and driver's license fees are other top revenue generators at the RMV.

At a budget hearing today, Transportation Secretary Richard Davey laid out efficiencies through telecommunications and bridge-building technology and plans to team up with New England states for the purchase of salt and tires and move 4,000 employees off the debt-funded capital plan.

The transportation chief who helped the unsuccessful push for Gov. Deval Patrick’s larger tax package last year also discussed the fiscal constraints the department faces and the potential monetary blow if a ballot referendum passes, repealing the law that indexes future gas tax increases to inflation.

“Toll revenue cannot be used to meet our obligation to pay for transportation staff on the operating budget. Therefore, the one revenue source we can and we will turn to is registry fees,” Davey said.

He also said, “The repeal of the gas tax indexing will result in a loss of an estimated $2 billion in capacity for projects over the next decade. This will be a significant cut to an already underfunded long-term transportation program.”

Tens of thousands of registered voters have signed petitions to put a gas tax indexing repeal measure on the November ballot, arguing against automatic tax triggers and asserting that lawmakers should have to vote each time the gas tax is raised.

The July 2013 tax law required MassDOT to fund a portion of its budget through its own revenues and savings. Davey said Patrick’s fiscal year 2015 budget increases transportation funding by $141 million, including $55 million from MassDOT revenues, allowing the state to move employees from the capital budget to the operating budget.

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