Group seeks to raise fees for transportation

Published: Wednesday, January 26, 2005 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Tuesday, January 25, 2005 at 10:44 p.m.
SARASOTA - Buying, registering and renting a car in Florida would cost noticeably more if lawmakers heed the advice of an organization that insists state spending on roads must be accelerated.
The need for fresh asphalt is racing further and further ahead of the money available to pay for all that road work.
The Florida Department of Transportation estimates it will be $22.7 billion short during the next 10 years as it tries to adequately maintain existing highways and bridges.
That estimate does not include expansion or construction of new roads for the state's ever-multiplying number of motorists.
Yet Gov. Jeb Bush and the Legislature regard raising the state gas tax, now at nearly 21 cents per gallon, as politically unacceptable.
So Floridians for Better Transportation, a lobbying group formed by the Florida Chamber of Commerce and Florida Council of 100, is swapping the dreaded T-word (taxes) for a possibly more politically acceptable F-word: "fees."
Floridians for Better Transportation suggests the state could make up at least $13.6 billion of its projected shortfall if it raised various transportation-related fees.
The group is recommending that:
  • The $24 charge on car titles be increased to $50.
  • A $2 daily surcharge on rental cars be increased to $6.
  • An annual registration fee that is based on a vehicle's weight and starts at $14.50 should be gradually raised to a minimum of $29 over the next three years.
  • A $100 impact fee on new cars be gradually increased to $200 over the next three years and be applied to car resales as well.
    "The bottom line is we need more money," said Douglas Callaway, president of Floridians for Better Transportation. "Transportation is a necessary function of government and should be funded accordingly."
    The group says it could get run over by opposition from the private and public sectors.
    Truckers will argue against raising the tiered vehicle registration fees because the owners of heavy vehicles will face the biggest increases.
    They already pay $900 or more a year to keep their truck registrations current.
    The tourism industry will contend that raising the surcharge on rental cars may hurt a sector of Florida's economy that's still in recovery from hurricanes and other setbacks.
    And Bush and the state Legislature are in full "no new taxes" mode.
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