For folks who live in Milford in Beaver County, it's a 50-mile drive to Cedar City every time they need to renew their driver's license.
And the trip isn't likely to get shorter any time in the near future.On Friday, the House first rejected a proposal to raise driver's license fees by $5 and then voted 21-49 to reject a $2 increase.
Proponents of the increase argue the money is needed to shorten lines at driver license centers and provide expanded services, including reopening facilities in rural Utah that were closed during budget shortfalls in recent years.
"Driver license offices have been closed all over in rural parts of the state," said Rep. Haze Hunter, R-Cedar City, "and that's not serving the people of the state."
The $5 fee increase was supported by Gov. Norm Bangerter and was mentioned in his State of the State address at the opening of the 1991 Legislature.
"We've been trying to address the concerns of countless citizens regarding the aggravation they incur regarding license renewals. If the Legislature is unwilling to fund the problem with a fee increase, they should look at another means of expediting the process," Francine Giani, Bangerter's press secretary said Friday morning.
In arguing for a $5 increase, the sponsor of HB52, Rep. Stephen Bodily, R-Lewiston, argued unsuccessfully that a $2 increase would not adequately address the myriad problems plaguing driver license services in Utah. "The revenue will continue to fall short of the division's needs every year," he said. "I don't enjoy raising fees," he added, "but in all honesty I think this is justified. It's time to bite the bullet now."
Rep. Arlo James, D-Kearns, agreed that a users fee is an appropriate way to address a serious problem in state government. "We have no problem increasing taxes on cigarettes. If we want to help agencies in government become self-supportive, we have to give them the mechanisms to do it."
But most lawmakers, Republicans and Democrats alike, saw the fee increase as nothing short of a tax increase. "The system is wrong and it doesn't need more money," said Rep. Allan Rushton, D-West Valley.
Bodily promised the driver's license fee increase will certainly be back before the Legislature again and again as current revenues do not begin to meet the needs of the Division of Driver License Services.