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Kaine Wants to Keep $1 Car Fee

Tim Craig

Gov. Timothy M. Kaine (D) said today that he wants to keep a $1 per vehicle annual registration fee collected primarily to help pay for the Jamestown 400th commemoration even though the celebrations ended this year.

In the last week, several prominent Republicans, including Attorney General Robert F. McDonnell (R) have argued that the fee should be eliminated since Virginians were told the fee was for the Jamestown festivities.

But Kaine said today he wants to keep the fee to help funding tourism initiatives and the Department of Motor Vehicles.

"It is a proposal I will make to the legislature," said Kaine, who said he will say more about the matter when he unveils his budget Monday.

Kaine's proposal, which still must be approved by the General Assembly, will likely become fodder for anti-tax activists and other conservatives who argue the fee is a prime example of government becoming addicted to certain revenues.

"The fee passed specifically for this commemoration has no justification for continuation,'' said McDonnell, a possible candidate for governor in 2009. "This fee must be allowed to sunset as originally scheduled, in order to maintain the public trust."

McDonnell said he spoke to House Speaker William J. Howell (R-Stafford) earlier this week to encourage him and other lawmakers to let the fee expire. But incoming Senate Minority Leader Thomas K. Norment (R-James City) argues the fee should be continued.

In 2003, the General Assembly raised the cost of vehicle registration by $1 to collect an additional $6 million each year. About $4 million was spent on an 18-month series of events marking the 400th anniversary of the founding of America's first permanent English settlement.

The remainder was divided between the Department of Motor Vehicles for driver's license security and the governor's open space conservation fund.

Kaine, who is facing a $600 million budget shortfall, said he will propose the fee "not go away" even though the Jamestown celebration is over.

"It should continue in a way that would fund a combination of tourism and also expenses at the DMVs," said Kaine.

Last week, a conservative radio host in Richmond launched an online petition to have the fee repealed. Eight-hundred fifty people have already signed it.

By Tim Craig  |  December 12, 2007; 6:03 PM ET
Categories:  Tim Craig  
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