Turner Motor Vehicle Surcharge Amnesty Bill Advances

TRENTON – A bill sponsored by Senator Shirley K. Turner which would establish a 60-day grace period for drivers with outstanding motor vehicle surcharges to pay those surcharges without facing interest or collection costs was approved by the Senate today by a vote of 39-0.

“At a time of global economic crisis, many drivers in the lowest income brackets simply cannot afford the death by a thousand cuts created by the fee and penalty scheme surrounding motor vehicle surcharges,” said Senator Turner, D-Mercer. “Unless we provide some sort of relief for these individuals, they will never dig themselves out of their debt to the State Motor Vehicle Commission. By creating an amnesty period from interest and collection fees associated with motor vehicle surcharges, we can give penalized drivers an option to wipe the slate clean, and raise needed funds for the State.”

The bill, S-2903, would establish a 60-day amnesty program for motor vehicle surcharges, similar to the successful tax amnesty program which helped raise millions for State coffers. Under Senator Turner’s bill, the Chief Administrator of the New Jersey Motor Vehicle Commission (MVC) would set the framework for a surcharge amnesty program to allow drivers to satisfy any outstanding surcharges without being hit with massive interest payments or collection fees. The bill excludes any surcharges levied against drivers for drunk driving or failing to consent to a blood alcohol test and provides that any amnesty-eligible surcharge that’s not paid within the 60-day time period would be subject to a five percent penalty after the amnesty expires.

“Many drivers with outstanding motor vehicle surcharges find themselves caught in a vicious circle,” said Senator Turner. “They do not have the money to pay their surcharges and restore their driving privileges, and they cannot get a job to earn that money without a reliable mode of transportation. Particularly as federal funding is coming into the State for shovel-ready projects, we want to make sure our residents can take advantage of the new jobs created through this investment in our transportation infrastructure.”

According to estimates by the State MVC, the surcharge amnesty period could bring in $17 million in uncollected funds to the State.

“For drivers who, through honest mistake or whatever reason, allowed their insurance coverage or registration to lapse, or have accumulated too many moving violation points on their license, they need to have some sort of vehicle to redeem their driving record,” said Senator Turner. “However, the high cost associated with motor vehicle surcharges, coupled with interest fees and collection fees, have ensured that most drivers in this State cannot afford to pay their surcharges. There are millions of dollars in uncollected motor vehicle surcharges out there right now, and it’s time New Jersey offer drivers a break in order to collect some of that money.”

The bill now heads to the Assembly for consideration.

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