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House bills to get rid of Driver Responsibility Fees moves to Senate

A sunset for Michigan's "driver responsibility fee"?
Josh Angehr
A sunset for Michigan's "driver responsibility fee"?

The state House voted Thursday night to get rid of Michigan’s Driver Responsibility Fee, but the bills could hit a roadblock in the state Senate.

The House and Senate both want to get rid of the fees. They were originally enacted to fill a hole in the state budget. Bill sponsor, Representative Joseph Bellino (R-Monroe) called the fees a failed experiment.

“Driver Responsibility Fees do nothing to improve driving habits but do keep families in debt,” he said.

But there’s a big difference between the plans coming from the House and Senate. The House plan would forgive all outstanding Driver Responsibility Fees, but the Senate would only get rid of some older debt and phase out the rest over time.  

The Senate plan originally also called for all debt to be forgiven, but it changed after concerns were raised by the state Treasury. It’s concerned with wiping the slate clean. Treasury spokesperson Ron Leiz said the House plan of immediate forgiveness would take tens of millions of dollars out of the state budget.

“We’re working with the Legislature to find a solution that is fair and addresses the underlying issue while keeping the budget balanced,” he said.

The bills passed in the House with almost unanimous support, with a provision for complete forgiveness.

“Michigan should not balance its budget on the back of drivers,” said bill sponsor Representative Leslie Love (D-Detroit). “The Driver Responsibility Fee was bad from the beginning and we are long overdue in ridding ourselves of this double tax.”

Before becoming the newest Capitol reporter for the Michigan Public Radio Network, Cheyna Roth was an attorney. She spent her days fighting it out in court as an assistant prosecuting attorney for Ionia County. Eventually, Cheyna took her investigative and interview skills and moved on to journalism. She got her masters at Michigan State University and was a documentary filmmaker, podcaster, and freelance writer before finding her home with NPR. Very soon after joining MPRN, Cheyna started covering the 2016 presidential election, chasing after Donald Trump, Hillary Clinton, and all their surrogates as they duked it out for Michigan. Cheyna also focuses on the Legislature and criminal justice issues for MPRN. Cheyna is obsessively curious, a passionate storyteller, and an occasional backpacker. Follow her on Twitter at @Cheyna_R
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