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Lawmakers on Both Sides Look to Repeal Fee Increases

Lawmakers on both sides of the political aisle are looking at repealing a law that raised fees on drivers starting Sept. 1.

Rep. Ron Saunders, D-Key West, and Rep. Brad Drake, R-Eucheanna, have both filed bills that would roll back the increases on a number of driving-related costs including the reinstatement of a driver's license, registration of a motor vehicle, license plates and initial registration for certain vehicles.

The two chambers approved the increases this past spring as a way to plug holes in the budget. The fees went into effect Sept. 1.

On that day, late payment fees on driver's license renewals increased 15-fold, from $1 to $15, and the cost of an original driver's license went from $27 to $48. Renewing a driver's license increased from $20 to $48.

All of the House Democrats voted against the increases in the spring, and Saunders said many of the House Democrats are in support of repealing them now and passing other revenue-raising measures instead, such as closing tax exemptions.

“From the beginning, we all agreed we needed some funding to avoid some cuts,” Saunders said. “But we just think this is the wrong way to do it.”

Drake voted in favor of the original measure, but now has changed his opinion. He said that when the proposal to raise the fees was originally brought up this past spring, he thought it was going to be used as a negotiating tactic and didn't expect the increases to be in the final budget.

“I think that in the times that we're living in, with the economy as bad as it is and the people trying to save as much money as they can to be able to live and work, I think that we need to give the people some reprieve through either reversing the original intent or putting those increases off down the road a little bit,” Drake said.

The reversals could face stiff opposition in the Legislature. Despite the fact that House Democrats are united over the prospect, they are still at the mercy of a majority GOP that may not be keen to do away with incoming revenue when the budget remains difficult to balance.

Drake said it shouldn’t be a partisan issue, but couldn't project how difficult it might be to reverse the Legislature’s earlier move.

“I'm gonna try,” he said.

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