New Jersey Residents Facing Motor Vehicle Fee Hikes

Garden State residents might soon pay more to ride a motorcycle, attend driver improvement classes and get copies of boating paperwork from the state.

New Jersey’s Motor Vehicle Commission has proposed dozens of fee hikes. The agency says current fee prices don’t cover related administrative costs, and without extra cash, it could be in the red by next summer.

The commission’s board is slated to vote on the hikes May 26. If approved, the rate changes could kick in this summer. The public has until Saturday to submit a written comment, but residents can also attend the board meeting to express their views.

Under the proposal, motorcycle registration fees would jump to $65 from $31.50. And, the cost of two driver improvement programs, taken after accruing a certain number of driving violation points, would each rise to $150 from $100.

One of the programs is mandated for certain drivers, while the other can be taken in place of a 30-day license suspension.

Overall, nearly 40 fees could rise, many of which are for copies of certain paperwork, such as boat registration applications. If the hikes pass, officials would have to wait five years before reviewing them for another price change.

At least one state resident slammed the pending proposal.

“I think it’s ridiculous,” said 33-year-old Sean Tomlin, of Millville. He said he’s looking to move out of state because of high property taxes and government actions such as the proposed fee hikes.

“What else is new; it’s New Jersey,” he said. “Raise fees, that’s all we do.”

The hikes could bring in up to $60 million a year, though commission spokesman Michael Horan said that figure could fluctuate. In general, he noted, governments collect less revenue in a soured economy.

According to the agency, several fees haven’t gone up since the early- to mid-1990s, or beyond. The base motorcycle registration fee, for example, hasn’t increased since 1968.

Still, the proposed hikes won’t cover many of the administrative costs. The price of issuing a commercial license exam permit, according to the agency, is nearly $440. Under the proposal, the permit’s fee would jump to $125 from $35.

Meanwhile, the commission’s coffers are already hampered by state law, as most of its revenue is sent to other agencies. Horan said the commission took in $1.1 billion during the most recent budget year, but was allowed to keep only 37 percent of it, as per state law.

The rest, he said, was distributed to the State Police and New Jersey’s transportation and environmental protection departments, among others.

This dispersal arrangement was discussed Tuesday at an Assembly budget hearing. Anne Harrington, the commission’s chief administrator, described it as being a “partner in supporting other critical programs.”