Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon on Wednesday vetoed legislation that would have increased the fees for obtaining and renewing driver's licenses and registering vehicles, saying the measure would have doubled the cost without providing an improvement in service.
The legislation would have raised the cost of registering a motor vehicle by $1.50 a year and increased the fee for obtaining a typical driver's license by $5. The fee increases were projected to raise almost $22 million annually.
"Senate Bill 51 goes against our longstanding Missouri values of fiscal discipline, low taxes and a government that lives within its means," Nixon, a Democrat, said while announcing the veto during a news conference in St. Louis.
The bill's sponsor, Sen. Brian Munzlinger, a Republican from the small community of Williamstown in the far northeast of the state, said the bill was needed because fees for licenses have remained unchanged for a decade and some license office contractors — particularly in rural areas — are struggling to turn a profit.
Munzlinger cited Schuyler County, another sparsely populated northeast Missouri County, which closed its office two years ago. Now, Munzlinger said, Schuyler County residents who want to obtain or renew a license must travel to Kirksville.
"For those citizens to drive the 45 miles to Kirksville one way costs them more than what the increase would be at the local license office," Munzlinger said. "The bill was an effort to keep our offices in rural counties open so our constituents would have the service locally."
License offices in Missouri are awarded through a competitive bidding process.
Nixon said the bill also would have unfairly singled out the St. Louis area for a new $2 fee for electronically verifying the status of residents' vehicle emissions inspections. The fee would have applied to residents of St. Louis city and St. Louis, St. Charles, Jefferson and Franklin counties.