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Hogan announces second round of fee reductions, eliminations

ANNAPOLIS — Gov. Larry Hogan Thursday announced a second round of fee reductions and eliminations he said would put millions of dollars back into the state economy without harming state government operations.

The 155 reductions and eliminations totaling $60 million over five years are the second round of such actions in the last year under the first-term Republican governor. Earlier this week, Hogan signed legislation that eliminates fees for birth certificates for homeless people, allowing wider access to a primary document that can be used to establish an individual’s identity and provide them with access to a wider array of services.

“I’ve said repeatedly that once we began to get spending under control and to get our economy back on better footing that we would begin to roll back as many tax, toll and fee increases as we could,” Hogan said.

The reductions “cover nearly everything from cradle to grave,” Hogan said. They include reductions on fees to open a EZ Pass electronic toll payment account, fees for veterans to enter state parks and the reduction of fees on more than three-dozen professional licenses including horse trainer and jockeys and other professions that are  issued by the Department of Labor, Licensing and Regulation. Veterans will see an elimination of the $20 fee for the veteran’s designation on state driver’s licenses when done outside the renewal period and a 50 percent reduction in the cost of visiting state parks. On Veterans Day, veterans will be eligible to enter state parks free of charge.

Hogan called it part of his “continuing effort to cut or eliminate burdensome fees.”

(A complete listing of the reduced and eliminated fees can be found here.)

Hogan said none of the reductions “will impact the operation of any agency or department” and in many cases represent fees that exceed the actual cost of paying for some state services.

In many agencies we saw the departments were collecting more than what was needed or in other words overcharging taxpayers,” Hogan said. “In other instances, we saw there was a need for relief.”

This is the second time in eight months that Hogan has announced reductions in state fees — a key issue he campaigned on in 2014.

But dozens of those announced reductions required legislative approval. Hogan noted that the General Assembly rejected nearly three dozen of those proposed reductions and eliminations. But they also approved some, including an elimination of fees charged to indigent residents for birth certificates – a measure the governor signed into law on Tuesday.

Hogan said the 155 reduced and eliminated fees announced Thursday could be done without legislative oversight.

“That’s why we’re doing them now,” Hogan said.