Legislature(2003 - 2004)
03/18/2003 01:32 PM TRA
* first hearing in first committee of referral
= bill was previously heard/scheduled
= bill was previously heard/scheduled
SB 103-MOTOR VEHICLE REGISTRATION FEES CHAIR COWDERY announced the committee would take up SB 103 and asked an administration representative to come forward. MR. KEVIN JARDELL, Assistant Commissioner of the Department of Administration (DOA), reminded members that Duane Bannock provided the committee with an overview of the bill at the last hearing and that he was available to answer questions. CHAIR COWDERY said he held this bill in committee for the purpose of giving members and the public time to voice objections. He heard none. SENATOR LINCOLN asked if public testimony had been taken and noted the bill was only introduced on March 6. MR. JARDELL replied the bill was heard in committee last week and was announced to the public at that time just as it was today. SENATOR LINCOLN asked what DOA did to publicize the legislation. CHAIR COWDERY remarked the committee noticed the bill in the same way it does every other bill. He said from the number of inquiries he received, he believes people are aware of the bill. SENATOR LINCOLN apologized for her absence at the previous hearing and asked for an explanation of the need to increase registration fees. MR. JARDELL explained that user fees within DOA were reviewed to determine when they were increased last, the value of the fee to the state at that time, and whether the state is receiving that value today. With regard to vehicle registration fees, DOA determined the value had decreased significantly. Staff then looked at other states to see how Alaska's fees compared and determined that the increase provided in SB 103 would still keep Alaska's registration fees below the national average. He acknowledged that determination was made in-house and that it was difficult to compare vehicle registration fees from state to state because each state uses a different methodology. For example, some states impose taxes in addition to the vehicle registration fee; some calculate the value of the car in the registration fee formula. SB 103 updates the fees to better reflect the intent of the original legislation. SENATOR LINCOLN asked for the average registration fee in the nation. MR. JARDELL said the national average is about $118. He said he would provide her with the formula DOA used. SENATOR LINCOLN asked if DOA staff determined an average fee for each category of vehicle. MR. JARDELL said they did not. They did a baseline calculation to see if SB 103 would treat Alaska citizens in a disparate manner from the other states. He said it would be too onerous to make that comparison for every category. SENATOR LINCOLN asked how DOA came up with a taxicab registration fee of $160. MR. JARDELL said in general, the fees were raised $10 per year so the biannual registrations would increase $20. However, the passenger vehicle registration fee increase is $30. That was a streamlining decision. Years ago, passenger vehicles were charged different rates than SUVs or trucks. It does not make sense to do that today so passenger vans and pick-up trucks were combined into one category. By increasing the passenger vehicle fee $30, the fee would be the same for both categories. He explained the extra $2 stems from the time when the Legislature instituted biannual registrations and decided it didn't want to simply double the annual fee so they doubled the fee and subtracted $2. DOA decided to simplify and raise the fee an additional $2 because it's easier to collect $100 than $98. SENATOR LINCOLN asked if school buses would be exempt. MR. JARDELL said school buses would be treated in the same way they are today and it is his understanding that school buses for a non-profit organization are exempt under the non-profit category. School buses for other entities would pay registration fees. SENATOR LINCOLN asked if the fee is $300 for a school bus. MR. JARDELL said he believes the fee amount is the same as the amount charged for a commercial vehicle, which depends on the weight of the vehicle. He offered to get back to Senator Lincoln to verify that information. He said Section 1(4) applies to tour buses only. That is one area in which DOA made a policy call on the increase. In the past, tour buses used for out-of-state tourists were in a special category with a fee lower than the normal commercial rate. That rate was increased. SENATOR OLSON asked Mr. Jardell if the bill distinguishes between school buses owned by school districts versus those owned by the private sector. MR. JARDELL said he believes a distinction is made for non- profit entities. He offered to get back to the committee with more information on school buses. He repeated that SB 103 does not change the current method of charging registration fee for school buses; it only increases the fee. SENATOR WAGONER noted some districts own their school buses while others contract with private owners. TAPE 03-09, SIDE B MR. JARDELL said it is his understanding that a school district that owns its buses pays a registration fee. SENATOR WAGONER asked why the fee is the same for a passenger vehicle and a motor home. MR. JARDELL said that was a previous policy call that DOA did not change. The idea behind it was that a motor home in Alaska is not used for more than a couple of months per year. The same logic applies to registration fee for motorcycles. SENATOR WAGONER said he thinks motor home owners are getting a free ride because many of the motor home owners use those vehicles from April through October. He said there is a tremendous amount of motor home traffic on the roads between Anchorage and the Kenai Peninsula and Seward. He said he believes that fee is very low for a person driving a $500,000 motor home. CHAIR COWDERY said trailer and motor home registration in other states is a lot more. SENATOR WAGONER pointed out they also pay a special licensing fee to the county. CHAIR COWDERY asked if the boroughs in Alaska charge a separate fee. MR. JARDELL replied they do not. SENATOR THERRIAULT asked if local governments have that option. MR. JARDELL said he did not know. CHAIR COWDERY thought they do have that option. SENATOR OLSON said although the fees for motor homes and motorcycles are tied to usage, it is his understanding that the majority of the fees collected are used for road maintenance. He said the wear and tear on a road caused by a motorcycle is far different from that of a motor home. He said he would consider the weight of a vehicle. MR. JARDELL said the fee charged for a motor home is more than the fee charged for a motorcycle because of road damage. He said motorcycle fee isn't the same as passenger vehicle fee because motorcycles are used for a limited time during the year. SENATOR OLSON asked when fees were last increased. MR. JARDELL offered to get back to Senator Olson with an answer to that question. He said he believes the last overall increase was in 1978 and the disparity between trucks and cars was changed in 1986. The Legislature decided on the biannual registration at that time. SENATOR OLSON asked if the registration fees only apply to vehicles used on state roads. MR. JARDELL said they apply to vehicles used on state and borough roads. SENATOR OLSON asked if it applies to vehicles that are driven on the beach. MR. JARDELL said SB 103 does not change current practice. SENATOR OLSON asked if there are three categories of school buses: those owned by school districts; those owned by private contractors; and private buses owned by private schools. MR. JARDELL could not verify that. SENATOR OLSON asked how the fees for those three categories compare with each other. MR. JARDELL replied that a non-profit agency would seek a registration under its non-profit status. Other agencies or school bus owners would seek registration for a general commercial vehicle. He repeated that he would verify that information for committee members. SENATOR LINCOLN said she like the committee to hold this legislation until it gets that information. She asked if most road damage is done during the months from May to September, the same time motor homes are used. CHAIR COWDERY thought most damage is done during the winter months when studded snow tires are used. SENATOR LINCOLN said she was thinking about vehicle weight and noted the Legislature separated fees for passenger vehicles and trucks in 1986 because of a disparity. Now they would be charged the same amount. She asked Mr. Jardell to provide her with the formula DOA used to determine the comparison to the national average and information about registration fees for school buses. MR. JARDELL said he would provide the information, but wanted committee members to understand that SB 103 increases the fees and not the methodology. SENATOR LINCOLN said she still wants to know who would fall under that non-profit status. SENATOR THERRIAULT asked Mr. Jardell if he wrote down committee members' questions. MR. JARDELL said he would provide answers to the questions about the local option, how school buses will be charged, and the formula used to determine the national average. SENATOR THERRIAULT asked Mr. Jardell to provide the answers quickly because he would like to see them before the bill is taken up in another committee. MR. JARDELL said he would do so. CHAIR COWDERY announced he would hold SB 103 until the next Senate Transportation Committee hearing. SENATOR WAGONER noted his intent to offer an amendment to SB 103 to increase the motor home registration fee to $150. He said he also believes that motor homes for hire should be categorized under Section 1(4) and that fee should be increased to $300. He said about 25 to 30 percent of the motor homes on the road are rentals. SENATOR OLSON suggested decreasing the fee for passenger vehicles rather than increasing the fee for motor homes. There being no further business to come before the committee, CHAIR COWDERY adjourned the meeting at 2:37 p.m.