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Driver, vehicle fee increases go into effect Monday

Sun., Sept. 30, 2012

Lines were perhaps a bit longer than usual at the Department of Licensing on Saturday as many people tried to beat fee increases that go into effect Monday.

The Washington Legislature voted to raise the fees during the 2012 legislative session.

“In their discussions it was pretty clear that they needed additional revenue to fill holes in the operations and maintenance budget for our state’s transportation system,” said Brad Benfield, a Department of Licensing spokesman.

Through the remainder of this biennium, which runs until June 30, officials expect the fee increases to bring in $60.4 million in additional revenue, he said.

The fee increases will be used for roads, streets, bridges, ferries, transit systems and other services that make up the state’s transportation system. 

David Weinert waited in line Saturday at the Spokane Department of Licensing to get his license renewed.

“I was trying to beat the fee increase,” Weinert said. “These prices have been the same for a long time, but everything else has gone up. I think it’s pretty reasonable as long as the money is going toward what they say it is.”

Lisa Bergstresser, who went to the licensing department Saturday to get her son William a driver’s instruction permit, was glad to save money by getting in before the increase, but she also said she wasn’t really bothered by it.

“As long as they do with it what they say they’re going to do with it,” she said. “It’s not like they expire every year.”

But for others, the increase is an annoyance.

Some can’t buy alcohol at certain businesses despite being 21 or older with a valid identification because the identification has a vertical orientation.

The Department of Licensing issues vertical-orientation identification cards to people under 21. Most people’s licenses expire on their 21st birthday, so those who get it renewed in the days or weeks prior to their birthday are stuck with a vertical license another five years unless they buy a new one.

Lindsay Maher, 24, discovered the problem when trying to buy alcohol at a gas station one day. She showed her valid driver’s license, and the clerk wouldn’t accept it.

“I can’t sell it to you,” she said the clerk told her. “Your ID is vertical.”

While it is legal for businesses to accept a vertical ID when selling alcohol to someone over 21 years old, some choose not to. In 2010, the state Liquor Control Board proposed banning the sale of alcohol to people over 21 with vertical identification, but that never happened.

“There’s a list of acceptable forms of identification that are legally valid,” said Mikhail Carpenter, a state Liquor Control Board spokesman. “They can set their own store policy as to whether or not they choose to.”

Maher said she’d manage with the vertical license until it expires in 2014. “I’m not going to pay the fee to renew it just to have a horizontal ID. I’ll wait until I have to renew it.”

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