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Cuts in auto registration fees a hit with lawmakers, Scott

State lawmakers passed bills on Thursday that increased proposed reductions in auto registration fees to better match the size of the cuts proposed by Gov. Rick Scott.

The Florida House Finance & Tax appropriations committee voted 18-0 on a bill that would reduce taxes and fees on motor vehicle licenses by $25.05 for heavy weight vehicles, $21.55 for middle weight vehicles, and $18.55 for light weight vehicle.

The cuts would cost the budget about $309 million in general revenue between July 1 and June 30, 2015 and an estimated $395 million in subsequent years. The Senate’s Appropriations Committee voted 18-0 on a bill sponsored by Sen. Joe Negron, R-Stuart, that was amended to match the House bill. Initially, Negron had suggested cuts that would have reduced fees by an average of $12 a vehicle and cost the budget only about $185 million next year. But state economists revised the revenue forecast Wednesday, giving lawmakers another $150 million to spend.

Also, Scott recommended reducing the fees by $401 million. That bigger number had a better chance of drawing attention to the fees, which were raised in 2009 when Charlie Crist, his 2014 opponent, was governor. They were made then to plug massive holes in the budget left by the recession, and Crist has said he wonders why Scott and lawmakers didn't reduce them sooner.

Negron said he intially propsed a smaller cut in the fee because it was only a starting point.

“As we talked with our friends in the House, the governor has been very persuasive on his plan,” Negron told reporters. “”This is the best way to get direct relief that people will feel at home. And so, that was our decision to get close to the $400 million mark.”

Scott immediately showed his gratitude.

“I want to thank members of the Senate Appropriations Committee as well as the House Finance and Tax Subcommittee for their support in undoing the 2009 tax increases by reducing motor vehicle fees,” Scott said in a statement. “This tax cut will give families back $400 million of their own money.”

Though the savings are modest on a per-vehicle basis and companies with large fleets are the big winners, lawmakers on both sides of the aisle are touting the cuts as a consumer-friendly move.

“Reducing the fees associated with registering a car will help make owning a car more affordable for everyone,” said the committee chair, Rep. Ritch Workman, R-Melbourne, in a statement.

“The citizens of (my district) really appreciate this,” said Sen. Arthenia Joyner, R-Tampa. “It truly does help the consumer.”