Ventura proposes reduced vehicle registration fees

Erin Ghere

When Gov. Jesse Ventura released his first annual budget proposal Thursday, he had motorists in mind.
Included in the plan is a money-saving provision for any Minnesotan who owns and drives a car. He proposed a $75 maximum fee in place of the current system, which bases vehicle registration fees on 1.25 percent of the suggested retail value, plus $10. For example, under the current system, a $30,000 vehicle would carry a registration price of $385.
The new $75 maximum price would depreciate on an 11-year scale and bottom out at $35, said Sen. Minority Leader Dean Johnson, R-Willmar.
The new registration system would save car owners a total of $200 million per year, money that in the past has been funneled into the Highway User Fund.
Because University Fleet Services vehicles are tax exempt, the proposed change would not change the way the University registers its vehicles.
To make the plan feasible, Ventura recommends supplementing the fund with money from the state’s general fund, which gained a substantial windfall after defeating the tobacco companies last spring.
“No legislator is interested in lowering the amount of money for the Highway User Fund,” Johnson said.
Ventura is not recommending another option: to raise the state’s gas tax.
Wisconsin’s $45 flat vehicle registration rate is comparable to Ventura’s proposal. But Johnson was quick to point out that Wisconsin’s gas tax is 4 cents higher per gallon.
If passed, the changes would most likely become effective July 1, Johnson said.
Along with the change in vehicle registration, Ventura proposed eliminating vehicle emissions inspection for the metro area, a move that would save drivers an additional $8 million per year.
At this time, vehicles are emissions tested once a year for a fee of $8. If it passes the Legislature, testing would cease on Aug. 1.
To calm environmental effect concerns, Ventura proposed putting more funds into a task force to study the reduction of toxic emissions.
The Legislature will make decisions regarding Ventura’s budget proposal in the spring.