Drivers spending to hit the road in New York

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It’s getting more expensive to drive across the Empire State. According to AAA, the average price of gas in Buffalo is up four cents this week to $2.83 per gallon.

The sticker shock doesn’t stop at the pump. Between fees, taxes, and insurance costs, some drivers are getting fed up.

Late on Monday morning, the auto bureau on Eggert Rd. in Tonawanda was packed with people looking to do different things. Some of them were taking permit tests. Some were renewing their registration. Some were applying for a non-driver’s license identification card.

But no matter what they were doing, just about everybody in the room had to pay some sort of New York State fee.

“It’s something I feel is reoccurring, that is sometimes not needed,” said Sade Garcia.

She was renewing her driver license. That cost her about $65.

“The funny thing is, I was actually talking to my boyfriend about this today, how they’re charging you fees just to renew it,” Garcia said. “I don’t look any different from my picture. My eyesight didn’t really change.”

Fees aren’t the only problem.

According to 2013 data from Associated General Contractors of New York, gas taxes in the Empire State are higher than all bordering states. As for insurance, the average premium in New York shot up at a higher rate than every state but Connecticut in 2017, according to Insure.com.

“New York is one of the most expensive states in the nation for car insurance,” said Cassandra Anderson, who is a vice president for the New York Insurance Association.

DMV fees aren’t specific to New York State. But it does beg one question for the people at Rebuild New York Now. The group raises awareness of the need to invest in infrastructure.

“You have folks, particularly this time of year, driving around New York dodging potholes, looking at the horrid conditions of our streets,” said Mike Elmendorf, the president of Rebuild New York Now.

Elmendorf questions the way revenues in the state have been used.

“The state collects an enormous amount of revenue from the sales tax on the sale of motor vehicles,” he said. “That’s something that we think is an appropriate revenue stream for infrastructure.”

New York State Department of Transportation officials declined our request for an interview, but in a statement, said, “Funding for state and local transportation projects are supported through various regional and statewide dedicated revenue sources, including but not limited to a portion of the DMV motor vehicle registration fee.

“The process for selecting transportation-related projects is a collaborative effort between state agencies and authorities, municipal governments, and local planning agencies.

“Consideration is provided to projects that enhance motorist and pedestrian safety, preserve the existing system, facilitate community and regional economic competitiveness, and promote enriched quality of life.”

Much like Elmendorf, Erie County Clerk Michael Kearns, a former state assemblyman, would like to see more dollars go into infrastructure.

“We all drive on the same roads,” Kearns said. “We all see the same potholes. We had a very harsh winter. I would like to see some of that money go to paving the roads and fixing potholes.”

Kearns thinks he has a solution that will put more of the money you spend at the DMV into fixing roads in Erie County. It’s the ‘renew local’ initiative.

State regulations say if you renew your auto registration at a county auto bureau instead of doing it online, the county keeps 12.7% of the revenue.

Kearns estimates that could amount to as much as $1.5 million in revenue for Erie County.

“That is money that could be utilized by the local government, that would go into the county government to help fill potholes, pave roads, and do those types of things,” Kearns said.

Earlier this month, the Erie County Legislature approved the addition of 11 new jobs at the auto bureaus that Kearns runs. The clerk says he’ll use those employees to make it easier for drivers to renew local, and keep that money in the Buffalo area.

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