MESA, AZ (3 On Your Side) - A controversial public safety fee that was tacked onto vehicle registrations is being discontinued at the end of the month, but some Arizonans are still being forced to pay the fee for July registration renewals, 3 On Your Side has learned.
Deborah Lamoree has a camper her family has used for almost two decades. Its registration expires on June 30, the same day Arizona's short-lived public safety fee expires. But Lamoree says she's still being charged the $32 fee to renew her registration.
"Why do we have to pay the public safety fee for the next registration period, which begins on the day that it is discontinued?" Lamoree asked.
3 On Your Side took her question to the Arizona Department of Transportation's Motor Vehicle Division. Doug Pacey, a spokesperson for the agency, declined to do an interview but sent an overview of the law and a brief statement.
"Pursuant to state law passed by the legislature in 2018, a Public Safety Fee 'shall be collected at the time of application for and before registration each year of a vehicle,'" Pacey wrote. "The department must follow the law and collect the fee and deposit it into the Arizona Highway Patrol Fund through midnight, June 30, 2021."
Because Arizonans whose registrations expire on June 30 are already in the process of registration renewals for July 1, they are being charged the fee.
The public safety fee was passed in 2018 to support highway patrol operations in Arizona. It immediately faced harsh criticism from drivers, and now state Sen. Michelle Ugenti-Rita, who led the charge to get rid of the fee, is vowing to fight for the vehicle owners who she says are being unfairly charged by the state.
"It just reinforces the narrative that the minute you take your eyes off of government, they're going to screw you," Ugenti-Rita said. "It's beyond frustrating, and I'm going to do what I can to make sure that ADOT reverses their policy. We don't need this additional revenue source. This tax is unnecessary."
"We're still in session," she continued. "We haven't finalized the budget, so hopefully, there's an opportunity to address it."
For Lamoree, the $32 matters, but it's about more than that. "It's also the principle," she said. "I just don't understand why you have to pay a fee when the fee is discontinued."
When it was rolled out, the state estimated the public safety fee would generate about $180 million. The Department of Public Safety was not able to immediately say how much revenue the fee has generated since its inception.