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Illinois Policy Institute

Budget gridlock in Springfield caused the Illinois secretary of state’s office to suspend mailing vehicle-registration-renewal reminders in October 2015; as a result, the state took in $5.24 million more in fees for late license-plate renewal between January and June 21, 2016, than it did during the same period in 2015.

The Illinois secretary of state suspended mailing license-plate-renewal reminders as of October 2015 to save $450,000 a month during the state’s budget crisis; as a result, the state of Illinois has received a $5.24 million windfall in fees for late license-plate renewals during the first five and a half months of 2016, according to the Belleville News-Democrat. Between January and June 21, 2016, Illinois vehicle owners paid $9.53 million in fees for renewing their license plates late, up from $4.29 million during the same period in 2015.

Over 476,000 motorists received $20 fines for late vehicle-registration renewal in the first five and a half months of 2016, compared with around 214,000 people from January through mid-June 2015, according to data provided to the Belleville News-Democrat by the secretary of state’s office.

Currently, Illinoisans who renew their vehicle registrations late are subject to a fee of $20 in addition to the $101 renewal fee, and anyone driving with expired registration risks traffic tickets as well.

The Illinois House unanimously passed House Bill 4334 April 12 prohibiting the secretary of state from charging fees to vehicle owners who renew their vehicle registration late due to the secretary of state’s suspension of mailed renewal notices, but the bill was amended in the Illinois Senate, and the amended version has not yet passed both chambers of the General Assembly. A deadline for action on HB 4334 has been set for June 30, 2016.

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Illinois Secretary of State Jesse White’s spokesman has reported that 2.3 million people have signed up for email registration-renewal reminders thus far in 2016, compared with a little over 1 million people during the same time in 2015. (Illinois vehicle owners can sign up online here for email reminders of registration-renewal deadlines.)

Illinois is in its 12th month without a budget, and its unpaid bills total over $8 billion.

Although switching to electronic reminders to save money is not a bad idea, the abrupt stoppage of mailed vehicle-registration-renewal notices necessitated by the budget stalemate has subjected hundreds of thousands of Illinoisans to unnecessary fines and fees. Legislative measures to suspend late fees may be necessary under the circumstances, but the real solution is for Illinois lawmakers to pass a budget the state can afford.

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