Comments from State Representative Greg Smith
(Salem) “If today’s action is any indication, then Oregon motorists had better protect their wallets,” said State Representative Greg Smith (R-Heppner) today after the House Transportation Committee, controlled by majority party democrats, decided to sponsor a bill to jack up car title fees by nearly 300%. The Committee is also sponsoring a measure to punish people who use cell phones while driving.
Representative Smith opposes both pieces of legislation because, “here we are, right out of the starting block with the first two bills increase the burden on hard working Oregonians who are simply trying to make a living and happen to drive a car. It just sends a bad message about what we can expect for the rest of the legislative session.”
The first proposal would increase the current fee for a title certificate for car registered in Oregon for the first time from $55 to $155. The additional $100 is not earmarked for any specific purpose such as building new roads. There has also been no debate over how this new funding would fit into the big picture of transportation improvement projects around the state. “How come the first thing we talk about is more taxes? Why don’t we look for savings and efficiencies before raiding the pocketbooks of Oregon families?” asked Smith. The title fee is on top of the $27 annual vehicle registration fee for the average car.
The Legislature hiked these fees in 2001 and 2003 to fund road and bridge construction. In 2001 House Bill 2142 increased title fees to $30. In 2003 those charges once again went up to $55 and registration costs jumped from $30 to $54 in House Bill 2041.
The second measure slaps a fine of up to $90 on anyone caught using a cell phone in their car without using a hands-free device. Smith feels this would unduly penalize lots of folks in rural Oregon who need to travel long distances just to go to work, drop their kids off at school or go to the grocery store. Especially families who can’t always afford a fancy speaker phone on the dash board.
There is also the question of fairness. There’s been no discussion about consequences for people who put on make-up in the car, eat a burger, or referee the kids fighting in the back seat. In addition Smith is concerned about adding new duties for cops around the state. “Are we now going to have the mobile text messaging Gestapo handing out tickets? There are already laws on the books to reprimand distracted drivers. You can be held accountable if you don’t use common sense and watch where you’re going,” noted Smith.