Is new fee for out-of-state plates enforceable?

Is new fee for out-of-state plates enforceable?

DORCHESTER COUNTY (WIS) - In Dorchester County, JJ Messervy spends a lot of his time in the car.

"God created Earth in six days. He rested on the seventh. He rested in Dorchester County. This is God's country," he said while driving down a county road. "It has its ups and its downs, but there's always something interesting."

Messervy, Dorchester County's auditor, hits the road to find out-of-state plates still used by people who've since moved to South Carolina.

"It is the summertime, but there's a tag from out of state," he said as he rolled through a newer neighborhood.

He seeks them out because when he gets those out-of-state plates registered in South Carolina, it means drivers are paying their vehicle property taxes, which means more money for Dorchester County and its schools.

"The schools get a great deal of funding from vehicle taxes," Messervy said.

Soon, South Carolina's roads will also get funding when drivers register their out-of-state cars in-state. Starting Saturday, the DMV will charge those drivers a new $250 fee.

Messervy worries paying that new fee, on top of paying the existing vehicle property tax, will make some drivers avoid registering altogether.
"The more expensive it is, the fewer people want to play," he said.

So who will find the people who don't pay? And who will make them pay?

"My hopes are that there will be a big push for enforcement, but I'm not aware of any of those initiatives," Messervy answered.

Even though Dorchester County actively hunts for out-of-state plate violators, other counties don't. On Thursday, WIS found there's no statewide enforcement program.

Additionally, it seems most Midlands counties don't patrol for out-of-state plates to the level Dorchester County does. Some rely on neighbors reporting other neighbors. Some don't patrol for them at all.

Messervy said it probably doesn't make sense for more rural counties to do it, but he said the state does need to take a closer look at enforcing the new fee.

"It's going to need to be improved, and that's especially at the state level," Messervy said.

What will the impact be? Messervy doesn't have that answer yet.

"I just think that, in the long run, it will reduce registrations and hurt local governments as well as the state," he said.

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