Conn. may change boat registration period

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A bill in front of the state legislature would make fees due every two years, instead of annually

A bill in front of the state legislature would make fees due every two years, instead of annually

Connecticut boaters may have to pay double the next time they register their boats. According to a recent proposal, the state is looking to change the registration period for boats from one year to two — an idea that isn’t sitting well with a number of owners.

The proposed registration schedule would create an unnecessary financial hardship for boat owners, says Grant W. Westerson, executive director of the Connecticut Marine Trades Association, an organization dedicated to promoting recreational boating and to monitoring legislative and regulatory issues throughout the state. “You’re paying double, all up front,” Westerson says. “Sure, you might not have to pay a fee the following year, but having to pay for two years at once can be tough.”

According to Section 30 of House Bill 6684, “An Act Concerning Revenue Changes to Implement the Governor’s Budget Recommendations,” boat registration fees are to be collected every two years. This means that if a boat owner normally pays $50 per year to register his boat, he would instead pay $100 every other year. Depending on the length of the boat, its age and the construction materials, some owners already pay more than $500 per year in registration fees.

“This is a matter of spreading your resources,” says Westerson.

Another cause for concern among boaters, according to Westerson, is a change detailed in Section 33 of the bill. It calls for $2 million, collected from boat registration fees, to be credited to the state’s General Fund. Westerson says he is particularly upset about this change.

“State boating programs, like those run through the state Department of Environmental Protection, don’t receive funding from general funds and will suffer,” he says. “The state is trying to steal money from the boating account, and it isn’t right.”

But not everyone sees the proposed changes negatively. Michael Cicchetti, undersecretary of the state’s Office of Policy and Management, says the changes are convenient for the state and for boaters, too.

“Collecting registration fees once every two years makes for less hassle for boat owners because they won’t have to worry about paying every year,” he says. “It’s also easier for the state to collect the fees this way.”

Cicchetti estimates that the state collects $4 million annually in boat registration fees. He says that if the proposals are accepted by the state’s finance committee, the state, during the first year, would collect two years’ worth of fees from half of the state’s boat owners, and one year’s worth from the other half, generating about $6 million. Every subsequent year one half of that state’s boat owners would pay their two-year registration fee, generating $4 million per year.

It’s the excess $2 million to be generated in the first year, Cicchetti says, that will be moved to the state’s General Fund.

“It’s a one-time bump,” he says. “It’ll help balance that end of the state budget.”

But Westerson, who testified against the changes at a finance committee public hearing in March, says he isn’t satisfied.

“This is the kind of legislation that comes out of the gate, gets rocks thrown at it and then either gets massively revised or rejected,” he says.

Westerson urges Connecticut boat owners to contact their local state representative or senator to speak out against the changes proposed under House Bill 6684. To find your local legislator or a copy of House Bill 6684, log onto www.cga.ct.gov. For a copy of Connecticut’s boat registration fee schedule, log onto www.dmv.org.