CARSON CITY — Nevada motorists looking to recoup a wrongfully assessed $1-per-transaction surcharge at the state DMV might weigh collecting that refund against what it could cost in gas to obtain it.
Refunds on the fee, which state courts nullified after a lawsuit, will only be processed in person under a plan approved by the Legislature’s Interim Finance Committee Thursday. Following approval by the court, processing refunds could start in December.
“This is a long saga,” said Sen. Chris Brooks, D-Las Vegas, prior the committee’s unanimous vote, adding that the plan “makes a lot of sense.”
The repayment program represents the last phase of the state’s efforts to comply with court rulings in a lawsuit brought by Senate Republicans at the end of the 2019 session. The lawsuit challenged legislation Democrats pushed through at the end of the session to extend the DMV fee along with a tax on businesses.
Both revenue measures were slated to be stepped down or phased out entirely, with the DMV fee set to end in June 2020 but extended for two years.
A state court last year sided with the Senate plaintiffs in ruling that the extensions required supermajorities in both houses of the Legislature to pass, as required by the state constitution for measures that generate revenue. The bills passed the Senate one vote short of that margin. The state Supreme Court in May upheld the ruling, which ordered refunds paid with interest.
Per a memo submitted to the court with the stipulation agreement, the adopted plan was “the best of several options” considered based on cost, speed and ease of implementation, and “relatively minimal” programming effort for “an extremely old and very fragile DMV computer system.”
Five other options were considered and rejected due to cost, complexity, or time needed to implement, including issuing and mailing checks to all customers, offering a $1 credit on future transactions, or turning over the refund process to an outside party. The alternatives could cost more than the amount improperly collected under the fee.
Individuals seeking refunds need to present receipts in person at a DMV office and will receive $1 for each transaction on the receipt. Business customers, with a larger volume of transactions, will receive checks.
Refunds to the nearly 68,000 business customers represent a third of of all fees to be refunded.
With gas hovering around $4 a gallon, the average single-vehicle motorist can decide whether the extra dollar is worth the drive to collect.
Contact Capital Bureau reporter Bill Dentzer at email@example.com. Follow @DentzerNews on Twitter.