By ANDREA LANNOM
CHARLESTON, W.Va. — The Senate Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure advanced SB 477 Tuesday, a bill that would increase DMV administrative fees and the flat gas tax.
The legislation would authorize increases in the annual registration fees for vehicles from $20.50 to $50; fees for certificate of title from $5 to $10; fees for record, from $1 to $1.50; fees for ID cards and license fees, from $2.50 to $5; and certificate of title/cosmetic total loss titles, special stickers, duplicate registration plates, certificate of titles and duplicate permits or drivers’ licenses from $5 to $7.50.
Counsel for the committee said these fees haven’t updated since the 1980s.
The bill also would increase the flat rate of the motor fuel tax from 20.5 cents to 25 cents per gallon.
The fiscal note from the DMV listed that these changes would generate $34 million annually.
Louis Southworth, an attorney with Jackson Kelly representing Go Mart and other convenience store owners, brought up concerns with the tax regarding border counties.
He said since the cigarette tax was increased, convenience stores in border counties have seen cigarette and other sales go down.
Sen. Patricia Rucker, R-Jefferson, argued against the bill, concerned about the flat gas tax. She said it already costs her $45 to fill up her car and she drives to Virginia to save 35 cents per gallon.
“I know many people who do the same,” Rucker said. “A lot of people driving to these stores, increasing taxes on all of those convenience items. This will chase people out of the state and into neighboring states.”
However, Michael Clowser, executive director of Contractors Association of West Virginia, spoke for the bill, saying the state has not raised its highway funding or addressed highway needs like it should.
He said the reason the gas tax is so high is because West Virginia is one of only a few states that maintains its entire road system.
“Other states have local county programs, local taxes, property taxes, local gas taxes,” Clowser said.
He said by his estimation, all of the fees in the bill would cost a person $90 a year for the average West Virginian. He said the conditions of the road cost the average West Virginian about $1,000 a year in comparison.
The committee passed the bill and referred it to the Senate Committee on Finance.
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