The Great Late Fee Freakout

The label of origin is clearly visible, as the Denver Post reports:

To all you Coloradans who have paid late fees when registering your vehicles, gubernatorial candidate Scott McInnis wants you to know he feels your pain.

The Grand Junction Republican is going to have to shell out the maximum $100 late fee in coming weeks when he registers what he calls his “cow-camp wagon.”

McInnis is not happy about the late fee, which is part of a bill Democratic Gov. Bill Ritter signed into law to raise more money for transportation.

“It’s a ‘speed-trap’ tax, in my opinion,” McInnis said. “It’s the sneakiness of it.”

Many Coloradans hit with late fees have been vocal about their unhappiness, but others have ripped tardy owners who drive around with expired plates.

The fees are expected to be a campaign issue.

Most Coloradans who are assessed late fees let their registrations lapse. In McInnis’ case, the custom-built wagon was delivered in January. It has been up on jacks while a drain and other equipment were installed…

Ritter and Democrats said they chose the fee increase because it had the highest level of support among groups committed to finding more money for roads.

Senate Minority Leader Josh Penry led the Republican fight against the measure in the Democratic-controlled legislature.

Penry is also running for governor, and he and McInnis have heard plenty about registration fees.

“I tell you, people are very angry over this,” McInnis said.

So there does seem to be an unintended wrinkle in the new registration fee structure as it pertains to trailers and other non-motorized/seasonal vehicles–Governor Bill Ritter agreed with this over a week ago if you don’t remember, cited by the same Denver Post:

It seems Gov. Bill Ritter has found an appropriate compromise to calm at least part of the recent uproar over higher penalties for late vehicle registrations. Ritter said Thursday that the new law needs to be tweaked so the owners of boat trailers and other non-motorized vehicles don’t get stuck with $100 late fees.

It seems a little odd that today’s article, essentially written to give Ritter’s opponents a place to grouse windily about the new fees as they have for months, doesn’t bother to mention Ritter’s acknowledgement of the problem a week ago, in the same newspaper–but of course putting that in wouldn’t leave the reader as fired up about “the man,” an emotional state that reliably sells more newspapers. Like that story from last week about off-duty cops protecting DMV workers from late fee vigilantes:


At one Motor Vehicle office, an unhappy customer told the manager he might have shot someone if there hadn’t been an off-duty Arvada police officer on standby. [Pols emphasis]

“It’s really been a challenge, especially trying to explain the late fee to people,” said [Jeffco Clerk Pam] Anderson.

We hope and, based on our persistent faith in humanity’s basic goodness, believe it’s not always that much of a ‘challenge.’ Folks, how many of you are seriously ready to threaten violence over a $25 a month late fee? For something you know full well, politically convenient ‘outrage’ aside, you should have paid on time? After all, Republicans are the “party of personal responsibility,” aren’t they? Just not when there’s political points to score–then they throw up their hands and ask how people could ever be asked to…pay their bills on time? What the hell kind of conservative position is that?

Obviously, it’s the hope of those wishing to grandstand on these fees for political advantage that Democrats will be too timid to come out and say it, but we will: this is a load of whiny scofflaw crap being exploited at full tilt by opportunist political candidates and talk radio for rankly partisan purposes, and it’s wrong. We’re a little disgusted by the rhetorical escalation being willfully enabled by candidates for high office, on a nonpartisan functioning-government level. And frankly, if one of these off-duty cops were to (God forbid) actually become necessary, this kind of irresponsible agitation would complicate the decision of who to blame.

28 Community Comments, Facebook Comments

  1. BlueCat says:

    You get the reminder post card in the mail well in advance of your due date and then you get a full months grace after the due date.

    I’m a notorious procrastinator  and even I manage to get it done on time, though sometimes on the last weekday before the end the of the grace period. It is incredibly easy to avoid the extra $100.   Since I know I tend to be flaky about such things, to make sure I don’t forget I leave it up on my refrigerator door.  Whatever, it’s not that hard.

    This is nothing like a sneaky speed trap   It’s more like having numerous signs posted from five miles out that you will be stopped at a given intersection if you are going over the speed limit and you blast through it anyway.  Just don’t be a moron and you’re going to be fine.

    • Ralphie says:

      It’s been sitting in the driveway unregistered for about 8 years.

      If I ever decide to use it again, I will have to pay the full late fee.

      In some cases, it’s not simply about procrastination.

      Of course I’m money ahead compared to registering it all these years…

  2. PERA hopeful says:

    I’ve gone beyond the 30-day grace period.  I can excuse it (my husband got the mail the day the postcard came; he put it someplace and forgot about it; etc. etc. etc.) but the simple fact is that we spaced out getting our new tags until a helpful officer pulled us over one day and told us that our tags were 3 or 4 months overdue.

    And if I had been charged a $75 or $100 late fee to renew them, I would have been pissed, but not at the DMV.  I was the idiot and I was the one who rightfully should pay the price for my own idiocy.

    I don’t get Republicans who complain about every tax and fee when they’ve been profiting from the government for years.  I have a friend who has worked for the state for almost 20 years.  She posted a facebook comment about the legislature trying to figure out what to do about the budget, something to the effect of “they should just stop spending money.  How hard is that?”  In my 20+ years as a state employee, I met many a Republican and Libertarian who railed against big government but spent their entire career working for the government.  It boggles me.

  3. vuzh says:

    something you know full well, politically convenient ‘outrage’ aside, you should have paid on time?

    It’s just like wire-tapping, if you haven’t done anything wrong, you don’t have anything to worry about!

    • sxp151 says:

      The wiretapping debate (and the line you’re quoting) is about spying on everyone in case one of them commits a crime.

      This is about setting a rule with a punishment, then applying the punishment to people who break that rule.

      You may not like the rule, but this is like wiretapping in the same way that a slice of key lime pie with whipped cream is like getting herpes from Rush Limbaugh.

      • BlueCat says:

        protection from unreasonable search and seizure and laws that require warrents and court supervision for invading our privacy to the extent of wiretapping.  

        Even if you haven’t done anything wrong wiretapping could be used by an administration to get an advantage over political opponents or for other nefarious ends.

        There is no corresponding constituional protection for spacing out fees. No comparison is right.

  4. redstateblues says:

    I guess that only applies to guns and welfare though.

    Nevermind that the people who are missing the grace period are breaking the law by not having their car registered. That was true before the fees.

    People are just pissed because they used to be able to break the law and it only cost them a few bucks. Now that there’s a stiffer penalty for it, they get upset.

    • RedGreenRedGreen says:

      to leave a seasonal vehicle in your garage and only register it when you want to use it again. While these instances are few and far between, that’s an outrageous effect of the law that should have been considered.

      • redstateblues says:

        …tardy owners who drive around with expired plates.

        I agree that the law should be amended, but a lot of the people who are complaining at the DMV aren’t folks with cars on blocks in their garage.

        • RedGreenRedGreen says:

          Maybe that’s more common than it seems, but my impression is you don’t get far past your grace-period month without coming to the attention of a cop if you’re driving around on expired plates, and that doesn’t lead to the maximum late fees.

          It’s not that uncommon to have a vehicle that isn’t running or that you’re not currently using that hasn’t been registered for a while.

          My dad got an RV a few years ago, registered it, then let it sit all last year because gas was so pricey. It’s a dilemma whether he registers it now — don’t underestimate the pains people will take to avoid handing over money to the government for something they perceive as unfair or absurd.

          My uncle and aunt live in a neighboring state but keep an SUV in their garage in their second home near Durango. They weren’t up last summer for medical reasons so the registration expired last fall. They decided instead of registering it to drive another car up from New Mexico for the six weeks they’ll be here.

          On my own block there are at least six cars people are working on, or that encountered a problem so their owners have been driving a second vehicle. That’s including one in my own garage that needed a new alternator last spring, but gets poor mileage, so I just parked it and drove my truck. If deciding to fix it means an additional $100 to the state, that is going to influence my decision.

          I think you’re underestimating how many people this affects who aren’t being irresponsible about deadlines but are just doing what they’ve done for years with their vehicles.

          • DavidThi808DavidThi808 says:

            and there are always trade-offs. That does not mean the state should craft everything to handle it in a way that everyone things is “fair.”

            The purpose of these fees is to pay for the roads these vehicles are driven on. The law should not be crafted to let people work the system to reduce paying their share.

            I could complain that my registration fees on my cars, which I basically drive to & from work about 7 miles away, is the same as someone who puts 20,000 miles/year on the car.

            But I don’t because I realize any system is imperfect at best. And what we have is reasonable.

            • sxp151 says:

              but the first time I ever thought RedGreen was wrong… I knew it would happen eventually.

            • RedGreenRedGreen says:

              and I won’t disagree a bit that they are paying for much-needed work, but socking people who can least afford it with these rather high late fees — I don’t think that was anyone’s explicit intent and I don’t think anger over it is as easily dismissible as some Democrats are treating it.

              And, yes, the state should definitely aim toward fairness, even if it’s always imperfectly realized. For that reason, I think a gas tax hike would have been a closer tie between miles traveled and road repairs, but no one thought voters would approve that this year. So striving to make FASTER as fair as possible and not sneaking fees up on people should have been a consideration and it wasn’t.

              • sxp151 says:

                are not the “people who can least afford it,” to be honest.

                • RedGreenRedGreen says:

                  my “spare car” (a truck, actually) cost me $1,500 almost a decade ago and the car I parked wouldn’t be worth my trouble selling it.

                  But I’m not complaining or angry about my own situation.

                  My point is, there are plenty of reasons other than procrastination that could invite this hefty fee, and it’s so far above the increased registration fees that it will get under people’s skin.

                  Neither do I don’t think voters are going to be forgiving just because the governor admits there were unintended consequences and he’ll make sure the legislature fixes it next year.

                  In the long run, this is not a huge deal and people will adjust their habits accordingly, but this year it’s a problem for Democrats, especially when they seem cavalierly dismissive of the griping.

          • redstateblues says:

            Next time you’re on the road, check out people’s tags. I once saw a guy driving around with tags that were years expired.

            • cologeek says:

              for the State Patrol on Saturday.  Tags had expired back in April of last year.  No insurance either.  I can understand if all you can afford is an old beater and are barely making ends meet, but what’s the deal with a new vehicle like this?  If you can’t afford the whole package of a new vehicle maybe you should look at something older?

              • redstateblues says:

                I do think not having insurance, rather than procrastination, is the root of people not renewing their registrations. You can’t get new tags without proof of insurance–unless you get that renewal card I guess.

                I think what it comes down to is that the law should have been more accomodating of people who don’t use their vehicles very often, but nobody has any problem with procrastinators and lawbreakers paying an extra $100.

                • cologeek says:

                  I’ll have to check with the boss tomorrow to be sure, but looks like we have been pulling in more expired/improper tags for impound in the last couple of weeks than we have for DUI.  

                  Methinks the State Patrol has been given orders to focus on expired tags.  Which is not a bad thing in and of itself.

      • parsingreality says:

        I think there is a form to fill out and then you can keep it forever unused.  You may have to turn in your plates, no doubt some Polster is more informed on this than me.

        But the bottom line is, get it registered!  It will cost you less in the long run.  The exception might be a vehicle that won’t run and you can’t get it to the emissions station for testing, or that it would fail. But that’s why you have friends on the Western Slope, right?  :)

        My Jeep registration expired every November.  In December 2006 I was pulled off on the side of Hwy. 50 in Nevada.  Some cop with nothing to do decided to check me out on the pretense that I wasn’t pulled completely over on “America’s loneliest highway.”  Great irony, eh?

        So, after waiting twenty minutes he comes back to the car and announces that he’s written me up for expired registration.  I tried to explain that we have a 30 day grace period in CO, but the computer said “Expired” and that was that.

        So no doubt I have a warrant out for my arrest in Nevada because of the computer system’s way of noting the status, and that he didn’t ask me first.  Wow, what a criminal I am.  

  5. the_spaces_between says:

    and more about the fees for seasonal/specialized vehicles that should not have been subject to these increased late fees in the first place.

    And Pols, it’s great that Governor Ritter finally got around to reading the bill that he signed in March, but wouldn’t the better strategy be to read the bill… then sign it?

    And why are you making excuses for Ritter’s incompetence in the first place?

    • redstateblues says:

      Agreed, but do those types of vehicle registrations make up very much of the total registered? Considering how many cars I see on I-25 every day of the week, I don’t think that farmers’ tractors and old ladies’ ’57 Chevys are the cars causing the problems.

      People want to be able to skate around rules, taxes and laws–that’s not new. But when people like Scott McInnis start validating their complaining, that’s not helping anything or anyone except Scott McInnis and Josh Penry.

    • BlueCat says:

      try to get the law changed.  In the meantime, they aren’t exempt so pay attention or pay the fee and don’t whine.

    • DavidThi808DavidThi808 says:

      If you use it part of the year, register it when it comes due. What’s the big deal about wanting to wait till it’s the time of year to use it to then go in?

  6. TaxCheatGeithner says:

    A millionaire downtown Denver lobbyist with a “cow camp wagon”?  

    Anyone else find this a little strange?  When’s the last time McInnis went to “cow camp”?  Last time he went to shoot some saddleback photos for a campaign brochure?

    This schtick is about as believable as his bleached mustache.  

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