One of the governor’s top commissioners is suggesting the state charge drivers a convenience fee for renewing their licenses online or in the mail.
It would be the first increase in driver's license costs since the 1980’s, according to state officials, and one Finance and Administration Commissioner Mark Emkes says is due.
“If you’re giving them a more convenient service, I think most citizens would be willing to pay a little bit more for that,” Emkes told The City Paper following a string of budget hearings with Gov. Bill Haslam and other high-ranking state officials.
Haslam later told reporters he's up for re-evaluating the driver's license renewal costs and other fees, but said he isn't sure now is the right time to increase it.
"We should look at fees across the board and continue to evaluate that," said the governor. "Are we serious about looking at driver's license fees right now? It's not at the top of our list, but will we look at it and a mixture of other things? Sure."
Tennesseans now pay $19.50 for a five-year driver's license, according to Department of Safety Commissioner Bill Gibbons who oversees the state’s driver service centers, which have been under fire over the last year for long lines.
Wait times at the centers average 33 minutes, with a total visit time of about 45 minutes. Gibbons said his goal is to reduce those times by about 10 minutes.
But Gibbons added he is unsure about charging a higher fee to drivers who stay home and renew their licenses online or by mail.
“All I can say is we’ve taken a look at our driver's license fees, [and] we’ve compared it to other states. We’re kind of on the low side ... but we’re not proposing a change as part of our budget,” Gibbons said.
Budget hearings will continue through Thursday and pick up again next week as Haslam and top state officials hear spending and revenue proposals from state agency heads in preparation of building the state’s annual budget which this year runs at about $31.5 billion.