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EXCLUSIVE: Head of Maryland’s Motor Vehicle Administration explains what drivers need to know about big hike in car registration fees

Chrissy Nizer, the head of Maryland’s Motor Vehicle Administration, joined WTOP to explain new vehicle registration fees.

Marylanders looking to register a vehicle or renew their registrations may be facing sticker shock of a whole different sort: Fees in the state have gone up, starting July 1.

Maryland MVA Administrator Chrissy Nizer. (Courtesy Maryland MVA)

Maryland lawmakers approved the fee hike a few months ago when they OK’d the state budget. They said the increase in fees was necessary as a way to pour money into the depleted Transportation Trust Fund, which pays for road projects.

All told, the registration fees Maryland drivers now have to pay have jumped anywhere from 60 to 80 percent.

Before July 1, people who own a regular size car, on average, were paying $135 every two years. The new rates make that more like $220 every two years. The fees are higher for heavier vehicles like trucks.

Chrissy Nizer, the head of Maryland’s Motor Vehicle Administration, joined WTOP’s Anne Kramer and Brennan Haselton to explain the new fees.

Listen to the full interview below or read the transcript. The transcript has been lightly edited for clarity. 

Maryland MVA Administrator Chrissy Nizer joins WTOP to discuss the new vehicle registration fees

Anne Kramer: Administrator Nizer, thanks so much for coming on. We’re glad you could help us better understand this. Break it down for us — what’s happening? Give us the details of what people are actually having to pay now.

Chrissy Nizer: Thanks for having me. So, as you said, the legislature did pass the Budget Reconciliation and Financing Act, this recent session. And as part of that, adjusted the registration rates.

So with the July registration renewals, people will see those new rates … They’ll get a notice about what the new rate is. And, certainly, I want to assure folks that if they’re already in their registration renewal period, it’s not until that period is up that they will pay the new fee.

Brennan Haselton: Of course, people don’t like paying higher fees. But it is going to be, as we mentioned, much more for larger vehicles like trucks and SUVs which, on the face of it, seems fair.

Chrissy Nizer: Yeah, we’re certainly sympathetic and understand that no one wants to pay higher costs of anything. But we also know that registration fees have not been increased since 2004. And, certainly, we know costs have gone up … Construction cost nearly doubled during that time.

And so one of the things that we’re trying to do to make it a little easier for customers — something new that they’ll see — is they are offered a one-year registration as an option. If they don’t want to pay the two-year fee, they can do that one year. And as you said, it is based on weight. So if your vehicle weighs less, you’re going to pay a little bit less; if it weighs more, than you’ll pay a little bit more.

Anne Kramer: And EV owners are also being impacted as well, Administrator Nizer. Explain what they’re having to pay.

Chrissy Nizer: So as part of that bill that was passed, there is a new electric vehicle fee. That fee has not gone in place yet. It was a phased-in implementation. Certainly, we’ll notify folks once that does come into play.

But the idea is that we need the money, as was said, to be able to maintain our roads, to be able to do the transit — things everybody wants to have done in their communities. And so the importance of doing that, along with just reminding everybody that they’re also supporting our EMS system, because part of the registration fee actually goes to that.

It’s not something we think about all the time, because it’s all in that one fee. But we’re so proud of our medical system, our shock, trauma, our medevacs that take our loved ones if they unfortunately need it, to get that emergency care. That’s also paid for with your registration fee.

Brennan Haselton: Now it’s only been four days since the new law took effect. Are you hearing anything from people who are going into the MVA offices to register or renew?

Chrissy Nizer: Certainly we’re hearing from customers. We hear from them on a variety of issues, and we are hearing from them on this issue. And, again, we’re very sympathetic — we recognize all of us have to pay the new amount that was passed by the legislature.

But again, we’re trying to make it a little bit easier by offering that one-year option. You’ll see that right on the online screen, right on the kiosks. In the past, you actually had to come in and ask for a one-year if you wanted to do a shorter term. So we are trying to make it a little bit easier, a little more convenient to be able to take advantage of that. We have seen more customers taking advantage of the one-year registration.

Anne Kramer: Administrator Nizer, I want you to touch a little bit again on what you said … If you have a renewal coming up, you’ll get a letter that tells you or some kind of email that tells you it’s going up?

Chrissy Nizer: That’s right. So you’ll get your email about 60 days in advance, if we have your email address. It will let you know what your fee is. There’ll be a link to our website. And if you want to go to the website now, you can actually look at how much your vehicle weighs — that’s when your registration card — and you can find out what the appropriate fee is based on that weight. But you will get that notice whether it’s by email or, if you don’t take advantage of the email, you’ll also get a mailed notice with the exact fee. So you don’t have to wonder what it’s going to be, we’ll make sure we provide that information to you.

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