Arizona Department of Transportation Reimburses Thousands of $ 32 in Fees
The Arizona Department of Transportation is sending hundreds of thousands of $ 32 checks this month to drivers who paid controversial public safety charges in June.
The fee, which was part of the vehicle registration fee, was approved three years ago and later waived, but the timing of its end date has raised concerns.
Senator Michelle Ugenti-Rita, R-Scottsdale, said she added reimbursements to the state budget for people who paid the fees in June because ADOT should not have charged them this month after its repeal.
“It is completely inappropriate for the legislature to give the power of taxation to an agency,” Ugenti-Rita said on Tuesday of the fees. “There’s a whole host of reasons it was all bad news. Honestly, the only reason I was able to make (refunds) was because it was so offensive to the public.”
Lawmakers approved the fee in 2018 to pay the state’s Department of Public Safety. Funding for the department, which manages the state’s highway patrol, previously came from money that would otherwise have paid for road repairs and improvements.
The fee was originally estimated at $ 18 per year and was intended to free up money for road repairs. But the amount of the fee was not set by law and was left to ADOT to determine.
After ADOT announced the $ 32 fee amount, public outcry increased and Ugenti-Rita and other lawmakers denied it the following year.
The 2019 law repealing the fees left it in place for the 2020 and 2021 fiscal years. The money went entirely to the Department of Public Safety, not ADOT.
The state’s fiscal year runs from July to June. People who register their vehicle in June have valid registrations until the end of June.
Ugenti-Rita said ADOT should have stopped charging the fees at the end of May.
But ADOT still charged the fees to those who checked in in June. These people had valid registrations until June 30 and should not have paid the fees, she said.
Ugenti-Rita said she brought it to the attention of the governor’s office and received approval from Gov. Doug Ducey to include reimbursements for June records added to the state budget.
“The fees were due to expire on June 30, but I think, frankly, ADOT got caught taking a very liberal and questionable interpretation of the deal the governor and I had two years ago,” Ugenti said. -Rita. “When I brought it to the attention of the governor’s office, I said there was no way we could allow this to happen.”
She said she told the governor she would not vote for a budget that did not include reimbursements for June registrations.
Ducey signed the final budget bill in June, including wording for refunds.
Refunds totaled approximately $ 6.6 million
About 200,000 checks are mailed this month, worth about $ 6.6 million, according to ADOT spokesperson Douglas Pacey.
If two people are registered as owners, the check will be mailed to the first registrant, Pacey said.
“For context, processing those 200,000 refunds is roughly four to five months of work condensed into one month,” Pacey said, adding that ADOT had to hire an additional printer to prepare the checks.
Ugenti-Rita said she did not sympathize with the agency.
“They are the ones who screwed up,” she said. “They should never have charged the fees to start.”
Pacey said most checks will land at the correct address, as the majority of people receiving checks received their enrollment tab in the mail at the registered address just a few months ago.
But anyone who thinks they are owed a check and doesn’t receive one by mid-October can contact ADOT at (602) 255-0072.
Join reporter Ryan Randazzo at ryan.randazzo@ arizonarepublic.com or 602-444-4331. Follow him on Twitter @UtilityReporter.
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