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Green light dimming for vehicle fee

Tuesday election returns on a Vehicle Registration Fee (VRF) proposed by the Washington County Board of Commissioners showed the issue to be a squeaker, with the "no" vote leading the "yes" vote 54 percent to 46 percent.

If it passed, drivers would pay an additional $30 per year to register each car and motorcyclists will pay an additional $17.

The county has a backlog of $10.5 million in road maintenance and needs additional funds to get ahead of the problem.

In June, the commissioners considered a $43 per-car fee, the full amount they said was needed, but Commissioner Greg Malinowski and others voiced concerns that the higher amount wouldn’t get a green light.

If the $30 fee doesn’t pass, Chair Andy Duyck said Tuesday morning, “There is no Plan B.”

Gas taxes have been the primary funding source for road maintenance, but with more efficient cars on the road, using less gas or even no gas (in the case of electric cars), that funding source is leaking away. The VRF was an attempt to bridge the gap and fund the repairs.

The $12.8 million collected would stay in the county and could be used only to maintain and improve local roads. Cities would receive 40 percent of the funds and unincorporated county roads would receive 60 percent.

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