Submitted By Todd on March 2nd at 6:38pm
The Patrick administration today ordered the Registry of Motor Vehicles to abandon a $5 counter fee the state agency had started collecting on Monday.The new charge would have been added to the bill of any "customer" making personal contact with a Registry employee by either visiting a department office or on the phone.
“At the governor’s direction, the RMV is rescinding the $5 counter fee that went into effect yesterday (March 1),'' according to a statement by Registrar Rachel Kaprielian. "The proposed fee was meant in part to encourage more people to visit the RMV’s website to complete transactions rather than visiting a branch.''Elected officials acted shocked over the new fee.
Legislative leaders, rank-and-file members from both parties and the state Republican leadership criticized the fee after it took effect Monday. They said it was punitive and could harm poor or elderly customers who lacked Internet access or technical savvy. Senate President Therese Murray suggested she would support legislation to repeal it as early as Tuesday.Despite all the outrage on the part of the governor and legislature, they can't claim surprise.
“We want to discourage people from going to the branches,” said Ann Dufresne, a spokeswoman for the Registry of Motor Vehicles. Dufresne said the fee hike wasn’t a secret. It has been in the works since it was proposed in April 2009 as part of a series of new fees aimed at raising $75 million. The Legislature approved the package in August, she said.Patrick has already hiked the sales tax by 25% in an attempt to avoid having to cut favorite programs like free dental care for immigrants.
In a statement, Massachusetts Republican party chairwoman Jennifer Nassour said the change by the administration shows that it is politically adrift. "The Legislature would have certainly killed this $5 RMV fee and further embarrassed the embattled and flailing Patrick-Murray administration,'' she said.The hike in Registry fees was part of a plan by the governor to increase state spending during an election year despite the recession.
The governor's blueprint increases overall state spending by 0.5 percent from the redrawn current year’s budget and includes a $6 million investment in veterans services programs while maintaining funding for health care reform, education aid to cities and towns, job assistance centers, universal pre-kindergarten, summer jobs programs and the State Ethics Commission.The Registry already takes in much more money than it uses, turning over the excess to the state's general fund in violation of the law, which requires that user fees not exceed actual costs. Nevertheless, the state has been closing branches and ending certain notifications by mail to cut costs.
On Monday, Kaprelian also offered another reason: generating revenue for the cash-strapped state. "We're in a fiscal crisis and fees are realigning to reflect that crisis, and this is an added twist to get people to use the Internet," she said then.Yet another screw-up from a Governor who is trying to make up for his political tin ear by embracing any pander that comes along.
Governor Deval Patrick today announced that he has directed the Department of Public Health to take steps to impose a limited ban on Bisphenol A (BPA). BPA is a chemical in polycarbonate plastic and epoxy resins widely used for producing food containers, including baby bottles and spill-proof cups.He also has proposed a new tax on soda and candy bars.