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The House passed a bill Monday that would boost registration fees for most vehicles by $10 to $15 a year. The measure still must pass the Senate.
House Bill 170 would boost annual car and truck license fees to $50. Currently car registration costs $34 a year, and pickup fees are $39. Fees for motorcycles, taxis and other vehicles also would rise under the measure.
The bill, which would raise about $12 million, was introduced at the request of Gov. Frank Murkowski.
Democrats argued against the measure, saying it takes a greater share from low- and middle-income Alaskans' budgets than from the wealthy.
"As far as I'm concerned, it's an unfair tax," said Rep. Harry Crawford, an Anchorage Democrat.
Democrats also argued the registration fees already raise almost four times what is required to fund the Division of Motor Vehicles.
But Fairbanks Republican Jim Holm said the bill will help fund maintenance of the state's roads, which costs about $65 million a year.
And Rep. Bill Williams, a Saxman Republican, said legislators must begin to take steps to close the gap between spending and revenue because the state is just two or three years away from depleting its constitutional budget reserve.
"We all have to tighten up our belts and make the hard decisions," Williams said. "What are we going to do two years down the road when we say we can't afford to put anymore money into education, we can't afford to take care of the poor, we can't afford to take care of the seniors?"
Not all Republicans backed the Republican governor's bill.
Rep. Vic Kohring of Wasilla said the state should be trying to spend less, instead of raising fees.
The bill passed the House 23-17. Opposing it were Democrats Ethan Berkowitz, Sharon Cissna, Eric Croft, Les Gara, Max Gruenberg and Crawford, all of Anchorage; David Guttenberg of Fairbanks; Reggie Joule of Kotzebue; Mary Kapsner of Bethel; Beth Kerttula of Juneau; Albert Kookesh of Angoon; and Carl Moses of Unalaska. Republicans Nancy Dahlstrom of Eagle River; Carl Gatto of Palmer; Beverly Masek of Willow; Bill Stoltze of Eagle River; and Kohring also voted no.