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State Lawmakers Seek To Undo 555% Increase In License Plate Fee For Small Trailers

CHICAGO (CBS) -- The Morning Insiders recently exposed a whopping 555% increase in the license plate fees for some trailers. Now a state lawmaker says he's trying to undo that fee hike, which he blamed on an oversight in legislation that was rushed into law.

Rep. Grant Wehrli (R-Naperville) said that kind of rushed work isn't uncommon in Springfield.

Wehrli and constituent Mike Smith are both fed up, because the massive infrastructure legislation passed by the Illinois General Assembly last year increased the license plate fees for some small trailers from $18 to $118.

"It's mind boggling, if a mistake is made, and you can't even get them to respond to you on a mistake," Smith said.

Wehrli met up with Smith to talk about the problem after CBS 2's interview with Smith in January.

To help pay for road and bridge repairs across the state, the General Assembly last year raised the license plate fee for all sizes of trailers by $100. While that translated to only a 6.7% increase for the largest class of trailers, which went up from $1,502 to $1,602, it meant a massive 555% increase for the smallest class of trailers, which went up from $18 to 118.

"That's insane. It makes no sense whatsoever," Smith said.

Wehrli voted against the infrastructure legislation in the first place, and now he's co-sponsoring a plan to reverse the fee increase for the smallest class of trailers.

"This fee should not have gone up over 500%. It was a last-minute thing," he said.

Wehrli said the blanket $100 increase in trailer license plate fees slipped through the cracks as the infrastructure bill underwent a series of late changes before the final vote. He said he only had a few hours to study the proposal before his "no" vote.

"They did what was called a gut and replace. So they stripped the language out of that Senate bill, they dropped in new language, sent the amendment that did that to Rules Committee," Wehrli said. "Then it was moved directly to the House floor. So no one had the opportunity, no one had the time to do due diligence on it."

Wehrli said that kind of thing happens "constantly" in the state legislature.

"I'm on my third term down there, and every budget has been a process that has been sort of rammed through," he said.

For example, the most recent budget approved by lawmakers was larger in length than three reams of paper, but Wehrli said he had only about 20 minutes to review it before committee meeting where he had a chance to question the spending plan before a final vote.

"There's no review process that is open to the public, or transparent in any way, and that's been going on since before I got down there," Wehrli said.

Before he was elected to the Illinois House, Wehrli was a Naperville city councilman. He said the Naperville City Council would spend months reviewing annual spending plans, and up to 10 months hashing out the city budget, holding public hearings and publishing documents along the way.

He suggested the Illinois General Assembly should have a more detailed review process for the state budget.

"We can certainly look at line items in the budget. What I would recommend is we take a department, and every three years it's zero-based budgeting; meaning state your case for why you need what you need," he said.

Whatever the solution is, Smith said he hopes lawmakers find it soon.

"How much other stuff is going on that we're not aware of?" he said.


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