No Refund for You: Hummel Report looks into how canceled registrations help balance RI budget

No Refund for You: Hummel Report looks into how canceled registrations help balance RI budget


On any given day the Division of Motor
Vehicles performs up to 240 different transactions. Now more efficiently since
a new computer system came online over the summer. But if you come here to turn
in a license plate after canceling a registration and expect a refund, you’re
in for an unpleasant surprise. At the 11th hour of budget negotiations last
spring, the Rhode Island General Assembly decided to eliminate giving refunds back
to motorists who had more than a year left on their canceled registrations. As
a result, an estimated 18,000 Rhode Island motorists will unintentionally
help balance this year’s budget; collectively chipping in $539,000.
“It’s an administrative expense to the Division of Motor
Vehicles and they have for a number of years look to change the way those are
handled.”
Paul Grimaldi who is spokesman for both the DMV and the state Department of Revenue,
said officials pitched eliminating the long time refund a year
ago when budget recommendations for this year started to materialize. “Each
department has to make a presentation to the governor’s management team and to in
essence to show them where they think their projections are going to be for
revenues, for expenses.” Last year the Department of Revenue recommended
eliminating the practice of refunding part of a two-year fee if a vehicle
owner has more than a year left on the registration. “Was it as simple as, this is a cost for us to process; we have to put manpower on but we’re really not
getting the revenue back?” “Registration fees aren’t held by the DMV to run the division. All the money is turned over to the state budget. In
essence, 20% goes to the general revenue and 80% goes into the highway
maintenance fund. So, all that processing that the DMV does is an expense to the
department, because the money just flows through. The DMVs a conduit to the state budget. The way registration cancellations are
handled, is you come into any DMV and you get line with the other
customers and you come up and you say I want to cancel a registration. Well, the clerk
has to stop and do that work and that’s extra work that the DMV is seeing no
revenue for. That refund doesn’t come to us, it goes to you. We’re
not getting reimbursed on the other end for that extra work from the general
fund; moneys not coming back from the highway maintenance fund.”
That doesn’t
sit well with some motorists we spoke with. Michelle Badessa of Burrillville told the
Hummel report, “Isn’t that their job? They’re getting paid to work 8:00 to
4:30. It doesn’t matter that if they’re handing out refund checks or checking to
see if the license plate is still valid. It should be under your job description.
It has been for how many years this process has been going on where we’ve
gotten checks back. It’s just part of the daily duty.”
House Finance Committee
Chairman Marvin Abney tells the Hummel Report the elimination of the
registration refund was one of many proposals the legislature considered to
bridge a $134 million dollar budget deficit during the
homestretch of this year’s session. “It was a small request that’s popped up
from time to time . It was included in the DMV and the DOR’s
budget request for the current fiscal year so FY 18.”
The irony is the
governor’s office did not include the proposal in its original submission to
the General Assembly in January. But it was reinserted in the waning hours of
the session in June.
“You make the recommendation, it’s not
included in the governor’s budget initially.” “Right, right, initially. Then
it gets it gets put back into the budget, as far as we know, late in the process.
What we knew is that, we learned it was included
in the budget as enacted by the General Assembly in late June.”
“It was really
considered a small part of the DOR budget. The Department of Revenue budget
is over five hundred million dollars now and taking 3.2 billion dollar of revenue. So
a program, $539,000 seems like a lot of money, would
be a lot of money to the average Rhode Islander, but in the
context of that budget it’s a small amount.”
Some motorists we spoke with
wanted to know why the change wasn’t publicized and had to find out the hard
way when they went to turn in their plates. “Given how complex the budget is
every year, it’s not unusual for things like this for some people to catch up to.
All sorts of fees and programs get changed every year and sometimes they’re
implemented right away like this one was, sometimes they have an effective date of January 1, so it can take months before the general public understands
what the changes are.”
Michelle Badessa is having none of it,
“They certainly advertise the changes they made to the DMV,” she said.
“That’s all you heard for weeks, when it was good news. They have no
problem taking our money and cashing it the same day. Before you even reach the
door it’s out of your checkbook. A policy change like this is so unfair.”
In Cranston, Jim Hummel for the Hummel Report.

Add a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *