Counties may have power to raise vehicle fees

February 10, 2011 7:11:25 PM PST
A state senator has a plan to raise money for local governments through vehicle license fees.

Local governments have been having a tough time funding services like public safety and social programs. Now State Senator Mark Leno, D-San Francisco, wants to give counties the authority to raise your vehicle license fee, better known as the car tax, to keep programs going.

If it becomes law, two-thirds of the Board of Supervisors must approve putting the tax hike on the ballot, then a simple majority of voters in that county need to OK it.

"We're just giving a tool to counties they don't currently have in the midst of the worst financial crisis we've seen in 80 years," Leno said.

California car owners are already temporarily paying a higher car tax to help the state weather the financial crisis; it's now just over 1 percent of the vehicle's value. Under Sen. Leno's proposal, counties could nearly double the rate up to 2 percent and keep the difference.

Say you have a Honda Accord worth $20,000, you currently pay $230 a year, but our county could increase that to over $400. Republicans are lining up against it.

"We don't really need to raise taxes to solve our problem. There are other solutions like making government work an awful lot better," Budget Vice-Chairman Assm. Jim Nielsen, R-Gerber, said.

The car tax has always been unpopular with Californians. In the last two years, voters rejected both efforts to raise the VLF, even if it meant saving state parks.

Car owners at a Sacramento DMV don't like the idea of giving more agencies the authority to raise their vehicle license fee.

"No, I don't think so. They need to keep it lower because we can't afford it all," car owner Sandra Garcia said.

"No, I don't agree with that. And I would go any length to stop it," David Rodriguez said.

However, Sen. Leno believes residents should be able to tax themselves to provide the services they want.

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