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Assembly Bill Would Raise Vehicle Fees

State Assembly Speaker Herb Wesson has introduced a bill to raise vehicle fees and head off four billion dollars in cuts in local government budgets.

The measure would add $115 to the annual fee paid to register the average priced vehicle. The bill has strong backing from police and fire chiefs who say the cuts would result in a public safety disaster. But Republicans say lawmakers should focus on giving local governments more stable sources of revenue instead of raising vehicle fees.

They say they´ll challenge Wesson´s proposal in court if Democrats try to enact it with simple majorities instead of the two-thirds votes usually required for tax increases. The approximately $4 billion raised by the measure would replace payments the state makes to local governments to make up for the loss of revenue caused by a series of cuts in the vehicle fees that began in 1998.

Governor Davis has proposed eliminating the so-called back-fill payments to local agencies to help erase a state budget deficit that his administration says totals nearly $35 billion.