Readers have probably caught wind of the looming $250 fee to reinstate car registration after inspection has lapsed. Apparently, the fee was authorized in 2009, but the Division of Motor Vehicle’s new computer system can only now implement it. So far, about a half dozen legislators have pledged to halt the money grab.
At bottom, this fee shows how disconnected officials in government are from the people whom they ostensibly serve. Anybody who has at one point or another been unable to afford replacement cars every few years, or just hasn’t wanted to spend money that way, has probably had the experience of driving a perfectly good car that won’t pass inspection for some reason — usually emissions, or even just broken warning lights. The repair cost can be so high that it’s not worth it to fix it, but the car can’t be driven legally.
Now, the state is going to hit people who are already struggling financially with a really big fine. Officials insist that the fee isn’t primarily intended as a revenue generator, but that’s difficult to believe, given that the state is constantly on the hunt for money. After all, the expected $2.5 million take (implying harm to 10,000 Rhode Islanders) is only a little less than the $3.2 million expected from the overt revenue bump expected from a proposed expansion of the state sales tax. And don’t forget that Democrat Governor Gina Raimondo’s last budget called for the continuation of the fee meant to fund the computer system, for $11 million.
In other words, state government is either (at best) trying to implement a safety program without consideration of people or (at worst) looking for cash for other purposes. Either way, Rhode Islanders are not well served.
Moreover, we’re getting a warning sign about the government’s use of technology. One could easily see the state using a tolling system or stoplight cameras to automatically fine people whose inspections lapse when they’re caught driving. Never mind Democrat Representative Robert Jacquard’s almost-passed legislation to place cameras around the state to catch people driving without insurance.
Whether it’s the DMV or UHIP, we can expect “unexpected” changes when the government implements powerful new technology sold on the promise of efficiency and lower costs.