By WBZ-TV Chief Correspondent Joe Shortsleeve

BOSTON (CBS) – Fees are going up at the Registry of Motor Vehicles and you may wonder why. The I-Team found it has nothing to do with the RMV being able to pay its own bills. In fact, as Chief Correspondent Joe Shortsleeve found out, the RMV is making a bundle off you and me.

At the RMV in Watertown, they are standing in line. And everybody has their checkbook or credit card ready.

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Shortsleeve asked, “What do you think of the costs?”

“I think it is little bit expensive” said one person standing line.

“What did you have to pay today at the Registry?” Shortsleeve asked another customer. “50 bucks,” the person said.

How much money is the registry raking in these days? The answer: hundreds of millions of dollars!

“It is absolutely amazing, the Registry of Motor Vehicles is a cash cow!” says Mary Connaughton of the Pioneer Institute, a conservative watchdog. She says registry fees are a huge source of revenue for the state. “Over the years they have gone to the registry and they say ‘aaaahhh that is another way to get money.’”

How good is business at the registry? Consider this, Massachusetts will collect almost $600 million in fees from the registry or about ten times what it costs to operate. A much higher ratio than any other New England state. Vermont and Maine generate are about four times their actual costs while New Hampshire and Connecticut are about seven times.

Connaughton calls it a back door tax. “And they are going once again to the easiest source of money,” she says. “And that is raise fees. Let’s not let this go through the state legislature. Let’s have to go to an appointed body that can do it in a vote.”

Secretary of Transportation Richard Davey says, “It is a tax, a tax is a fee. Either way the consumer is paying out of their pocket for a government service. It’s a three letter word either case.”

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Davey does not apologize.

Shortsleeve asked, “Why are we so high?”

Davey responded, “Because we are making big investments. Across the state in terms of transportation.” Davey says Massachusetts has been aggressively investing in roads and bridges and those projects cost a billion dollars just in debt service each year.

“What I have heard from customers is that they don’t want the money spent on overhead and salaries. They want it spent on bread and butter projects that will make their commute better. And that is we are focused on with the registry fees.”

Those fees also help pay for the MBTA and its regional transportation authorities. Davey points out, “The MBTA moves 1.3 million people a day. I can’t imagine eastern Massachusetts without it or else our clogged roads would even be worse.”

Connaughton says, “Every dollar that is collected and that does not go to the roads and bridges ultimately winds up in the black hole of the MBTA.”

Secretary Davey points out the state has been successful at driving down the cost to the operate the registry. He says he hopes someday fees will be 10 or 15 times operating costs at a more streamlined registry.

He says very soon drivers will able to renew their license or registration at a free standing kiosk similar to an ATM.

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