by Jon Styf
A bill that would waive Tennessee’s license plate registration fees for a full year could save Tennessee drivers $121.6 million based on legislative estimates.
Senate Bill 2491 was amended to include the fee waiver before being approved by the Senate Transportation and Safety Committee earlier this month. It has been assigned to the Senate Finance, Ways and Means Committee.
The bill would waive license plate registration fees from July 1 through June 30, 2023. The Tennessee General Assembly Fiscal Review Committee estimated a $121.6 million effect on state revenue.
The proposal was acknowledged Thursday by Lt. Gov. Randy McNally after Gov. Bill Lee proposed a 30-day grocery and food tax holiday.
“The purpose behind the bill is that we have tried a lot of different strategies in this state to get money back in the hands of taxpayers,” Sen. Bo Watson, R-Hixson, said. “This exceeds the amount of money that we do when we do a sales tax holiday.”
A companion House bill with the same amendment, House Bill 2640, was placed behind the budget Wednesday.
Watson said the bill would require an appropriation from the state’s general fund to cover the two funds that receive registration fee money. That includes $110.6 million to the state’s Highway Fund and $5.2 million to the Police Pay Supplement Fund, which receives the first dollar of each registration.
Motorcycle license fees are $16.75, and vehicle registrations are $23.75, according to the bill’s fiscal note.
Watson said the fees could help return money specifically to Tennessee taxpayers from a state surplus in taxes, while grocery tax and sales tax holidays also are a benefit to visitors who don’t live in Tennessee.
“This would be one way to give back to Tennesseans and specifically to Tennesseans,” Watson said.
Tennessee has collected $2.15 billion more in taxes and fees than budgeted for in first seven months of the fiscal year.
“Thank you for being creative and bringing this,” Sen. Becky Duncan Massey, R-Knoxville.
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Jon Styf is an award-winning editor and reporter who has worked in Illinois, Texas, Wisconsin, Florida and Michigan in local newsrooms over the past 20 years, working for Shaw Media, Hearst and several other companies.