Bill seeks hike in vehicle registration fees to improve roads, buses

February 15, 2019

New Mexico motorists would pay higher vehicle registration fees under a bill to help fund roads and buses.

House Bill 321, introduced by Reps. Jim Trujillo, D-Santa Fe; Roberto “Bobby” Gonzales, D-Taos; and Rudy Martinez, D-Bayard, would impose the extra fees effective July 1.

The hike would apply to all passenger vehicles, tractor-trailers, road tractors and buses, but not trailers. For example, someone owning a vehicle weighing less than 2,000 pounds would pay an extra $27 a year over current fees. A vehicle weighing 2,000 to 3,000 pounds would generate an extra $15 annual fee.

The bill is projected to raise between $102.7 million to $118.5 million in additional funds in fiscal year 2020, with 90 percent of that new money going into the state highway fund to improve roads around New Mexico, Gonzales told members of the House Transportation, Public Works and Capital Improvement Committee on Thursday.

The other 10 percent would go to the Department of Transportation’s transit fund to upgrade and improve buses, among other goals, he said.

Anthony Mortillaro, executive director of the Northern Central Regional Transit District, said the district’s buses are in need of some $200 million in repairs. He said the state could leverage the extra registration money to access matching federal dollars to improve those buses.

But Rep. Cathrynn Brown, R-Carlsbad, said the increased registration fees would hurt all New Mexicans.

She said her constituents are “expressing a sense of alarm at all the tax increases that are coming their way.” She said the bill would lead to rural residents taking a “disproportionate hit” because they rely so much on trucks, tractors and cars to travel.

She joined fellow Republican Reps. Jason Harper of Albuquerque and Randal Crowder of Clovis in opposing the bill. They were outvoted by the committee’s five Democrats, including Gonzales.

The bill’s fiscal impact report says passenger vehicle registrations would account for 41 percent of the new money. It says vehicles registered for more than five years would require a lower fee.

That report also says that since the bill wouldn’t kick in until July 1, anyone registering a vehicle or truck before that time would not be affected immediately.

But, the analysis says, the bill might lead to more New Mexicans registering their vehicles for one year rather than two years.

The bill next goes to the House Appropriations and Finance Committee.