Republican and Democratic critics are taking aim at a new $5 fee the Registry of Motor Vehicles is charging customers who want to do their business with a real person.
The fee that went into effect yesterday will be assessed on customers who talk to an agency employee either in person or on the telephone to conduct certain transactions, including renewing driver’s licenses and vehicle registrations.
The fee would not be charged for transactions completed online, by mail, or over the agency’s automated phone system. Also exempted will be a visit required every 10 years for an in-person license renewal.
Registrar Rachel Kaprelian says the goal is to raise money for the cash-strapped state and discourage people from going to branches. “We’re in a fiscal crisis, and fees are realigning to reflect that crisis, and this is an added twist to get people to use the Internet,’’ she said.
Jennifer Nassour, chair of the Massachusetts Republican Party, called the fee a backdoor tax. “This hike burdens those people who can least afford it, like the poor and elderly who often don’t have Internet access,’’ she said.
State Senator Steve Baddour, a Methuen Democrat who cochairs the Legislature’s Transportation Committee, told the Boston Herald the state should not be nickel-and-diming people for mandated services.
The Herald also cited an RMV memorandum that appeared to coach employees about hiding the fee hike, saying it should not be singled out but included in a discussion of broader fee hikes during the past year.
Kaprelian denied any skullduggery. “There was no intent . . . not be upfront about it, ’’ she said. “We want to be upfront about it, because we want people to know they have an option, a great option’’ via the Internet.