Illinois gets $3.5M windfall as motorists rack up fees for late vehicle registration

Illinois gets $3.5M windfall as motorists rack up fees for late vehicle registration

Illinois motorists have paid more than $6.5 million this year for failing to renew vehicle license plates on time, more than double the amount collected in the same four-month span last year.

The Illinois secretary of state suspended mailing license-plate-renewal reminders as of October 2015 to save $450,000 a month during the state’s budget crisis; as a result, the state of Illinois has received a $3.5 million windfall in fees for late license-plate renewals during the first four months of 2016, according to the Associated Press. Between January and April 2016, Illinois vehicle owners paid $6.5 million in fees for renewing their license plates late, up from $3 million during the same period in 2015. In April 2016 alone, Illinois collected $1.6 million in late fees, whereas in April 2015, the state took in just under $757,000 in late fees.

Over 327,000 motorists received $20 fines for late vehicle-registration renewal in the first four months of 2016, compared with around 149,000 people from January through April 2015, according to data provided to AP by the secretary of state’s office.

Currently, Illinoisans who renew their vehicle registrations late are subject to a fee of $20 in addition to the $101 renewal fee, and anyone driving with expired registration risks traffic tickets as well.

The Illinois House unanimously passed a bill April 12 prohibiting the secretary of state from charging fees to vehicle owners who renew their vehicle registration late due to the secretary of state’s suspension of mailed renewal notices. House Bill 4334 further provides that a vehicle owner who receives a ticket for expired license plates within one month of the plates’ expiration does not have to pay the fine if the plates expired during the period in which the secretary of state had suspended mailing vehicle-registration-reminder notices.

HB 4334 is now pending in the Illinois Senate. The bill would take effect upon becoming law and, although the secretary of state’s office stopped mailing registration-renewal reminders in October 2015, it is not retroactive.

Illinois Secretary of State Jesse White has reported that 2.1 million people have signed up for email registration-renewal reminders thus far in 2016, compared with a little over 1 million people during the same time in 2015. (Illinois vehicle owners can sign up online here for email reminders of registration-renewal deadlines.)

Illinois is in its 11th month without a budget, and its unpaid bills total over $6.5 billion.

Although switching to electronic reminders to save money is not a bad idea, the abrupt stoppage of mailed vehicle-registration-renewal notices necessitated by the budget gridlock has subjected tens of thousands of Illinoisans to unnecessary fines and fees. Legislative measures to suspend late fees may be necessary under the circumstances, but the real solution is for Illinois lawmakers to pass a budget the state can afford.

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