Commissioner urges fee hike for online, mail-in driver’s license renewals

Tuesday, November 6, 2012 at 2:26pm

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.

10 Comments on this post:

By: Jughead on 11/6/12 at 1:41

I have a better idea---cut the Finance and Administration budget by 1/3 and leave the taxpayers alone.

By: govskeptic on 11/6/12 at 2:08

Commissioner's of all stripes have a way of justifying way for more money, but always
protect the status quo without much efforts on ways to cut expenses. One for the Dept
of Safety is to rid the automatic cost of living wage increases for Troopers which no other Dept in the Government has and give raises the same as all others.

Admittedly the Dept does have a true manpower problem at the Licensing centers.

By: conservarage on 11/6/12 at 2:39

ironic, since online renewals cut the need for office staff/hours and should be LESS expensive, not more.

By: bfra on 11/6/12 at 3:33

I say cut the commissioner's salaries & leave the taxpayers alone.

By: pswindle on 11/6/12 at 3:47

What has happened here? I thought that the GOP wanted to cut taxes of all kind. They do not believe in government of any kind, but they sure like their benefits.

By: Shadow63 on 11/6/12 at 5:31

It wasn't enough that they no longer have to pay a person to process the checks and cash paid in person.

By: Rocket99 on 11/7/12 at 8:33

I believe there should be an incentive to doing online renewals, not a deterrant. Charge a little less to do it online and more people will, which would also reduce the wait time.

I also believe that Troopers should not get an automatic increase in pay unless it is done for all employees.

Another way to save some money is to take away all of the automobiles assigned directly to a Commissioner, their staff or anyone on the Governor's staff. This also goes for the constitutional officers. They can drive their own car or ride the bus just like any other government worker.

By: Kosh III on 11/7/12 at 8:38

"ironic, since online renewals cut the need for office staff/hours and should be LESS expensive, not more."

Yes, they should charge MORE for in-person and the fees overall should increase to help pay for more and better personnel.

By: Jazzpa on 11/7/12 at 4:16

Let's see, pay a clerk to handle renewals in person, provide a "safe method" for handling cash OR eliminate the need for the clerk by implementing a web portal that requires minimal maintenance. I'm amazed they ever implemented the web portal to begin with! Accept credit/debit cards, sure but we got to hit you with an absurd "convenience fee" that is higher than stores charge for purchases below $5.00. On top of that they will mail your tags/license/carry permit to you but you have to pay an inflated fee that is more than double what it takes to buy the envelope and pay postage. Everyone knows the state and/or Metro employees you encounter when renewing are never in a hurry and could care less how long you might have to wait. Maybe they should get paid by production rather than hourly, that might motivate them to move the line a bit more quickly!

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