ANNAPOLIS – Sen. Robert Hooper, R-Harford, believes senior citizens deserve a break, specifically one on car registration.
Hooper hopes that by reducing the registration fee to $10 a year, it will help those 70 years and older who are on a fixed budgets and provide incentives for them to continue living in Maryland.
“Some of these people have been buying license plates for 50 years or more,” Hooper said. “It’s time that they get a break. It’s not a lot but it’s a step in the right direction.”
Hooper’s aim is to make Maryland more friendly for senior citizens, like Pennsylvania, where senior citizens have lower tax rates and don’t have to pay to register their cars.
If Maryland offers similar packages, he said, senior citizens apt to move away may continue to live here. Harford County, which Hooper represents, has one of the fastest growing senior populations, he said.
“Most people who are 70 have worked hard, they have paid their dues when little income was available,” Hooper said. “We need to lessen their cost of living. We have seniors that are making the decision to buy either pharmaceuticals or food. For them $50 is a lot of money.”
Hooper’s bill will apply to seniors 70 and older who have an annual income of less than $15,000. The discount is available upon request.
To prevent seniors from registering their children’s vehicles at the discount fee, Hooper said the discount would apply only to one car.
According to the Department of Transportation there are 296,208 licensed drivers over the age of 70 who pay $70 to register their vehicles.
Initially Hooper wanted the bill to cover all seniors over 65, but officials from the Motor Vehicle Administration objected.
“Enactment of this bill would result in a substantial reduction in revenues to the Transportation Trust Fund,” said Anna Hoffmann, a spokeswoman with MVA, echoing a prepared statement from the Department of Transportation.
The Transportation Trust Fund provides money for the Department of Transportation and all of its agencies and projects.
Under the initial bill the Department of Transportation could lose approximately $7 million a year. Hoffmann said the department had not carefully reviewed Hooper’s changes and would not discuss them.
The Senate Judicial Proceedings Committee could vote on the bill within the next two weeks.
Officials with the Maryland Department of Aging and the AARP declined to discuss the bill.
“This is just a first step,” Hooper said. “A way to say to the seniors, `We appreciate you and we will help you.’ ”