DOL’s list of fees nothing short of silly

I find it refreshing to see our civil servants at the Washington State Department of Licensing (DOL) have a sense of humor. They must be laughing out loud and rolling in their cubicles just thinking about the reaction to our next annual vehicle registration bill. Since the $30 licensing fee was mandated by public referendum I-776, DOL has been conjuring all kinds of inventive ways to separate us from our money. After reading my last vehicle tab renewal notice, I cannot understand how anyone at the state capitol can keep a straight face. One has to wonder if the state has Dave Barry as a consultant.

When I read my bill this week, I first noticed my license plate was due for replacement. Replacement? I took a good look at my plates and they appear just fine to me. There is no corrosion or other physical damage and I can easily read them from at least four or five car lengths away. If a law enforcement officer cannot read them from that distance, perhaps he or she should take a desk job. Then, there is the filing fee. This is understandable since the government uses contractors to do the filing. Next, there is the famous license fee which is always $30 to stay in compliance with I-776. Then there is a $10 weight base fee, a 75-cent license service fee and the aforementioned $20 replacement plate fee, which is really a $40 fee if I wish to keep my original tag number. Doesn’t it take extra effort to think of a new number? It took me five years just to memorize the one the state already gave me. We should get a discount by keeping the original number. I could even save the government a budget pleasing $40 if they let me keep my old plates.

I would have thought the last line item was a prank if it had not come from our state government. DOL is charging me $4 for a plate reflectorization fee. Is reflectorization even a word? Is that a fee so that my license plate is viewable at night? If I don’t drive at night, can I ask for non-reflective plates and save $4? If a reflective plate is mandatory, can’t I just keep my old plates which already have a number and the reflective coating? The government (we) would save a whopping $44 while reducing the number of discarded license plates that will swell our landfills for years to come. (Now that the secret is out, I expect to see a license plate recycling fee next year).

It appears the license fee only pays for that postage stamp-sized sticker I put on my license plate every year. If it costs the government $30 for that, we need to find another vendor. If we are to take the other fees seriously, I cannot understand what else the license fee could pay for. I am a reasonably intelligent human being, so if my interpretation of the vehicle tab renewal bill is flawed, I cannot be the only one who is confused.

Since I would rather light a candle than curse the darkness, I have a plan. We can keep the mandate of I-776 and continue the $30 license fee for generations to come, but let’s just call it a license fee used to pay for that reflective sticker and sheet of paper that goes in the glove box. The state would do better to add a separate road maintenance fee based on vehicle weight for $40, or $60, or $100 and call it a road maintenance fee. I understand our roads require maintenance and the government cannot do anything inexpensively, so that fee would be easier to understand and, perhaps, even justify.

I enjoy a good laugh, but I do not like my intelligence insulted, especially by those who work for me at the state capitol. If I need a new license plate, I am sure a law enforcement officer will remind me to get one on my way to work if I cannot figure it out for myself. Not only would the state get their $40 plus $4 for a new plate, but I am sure I would have to pay a nice traffic fine as well. If the state insists on continuing with this kind of silliness, perhaps we should ask Dave Barry to help. I enjoy reading his material.



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