Find the fee

I’m going to go on a “find the fee” hunt when the governor releases his budget proposal this afternoon. With cutting alone not enough to plug the gap, fee increases — not taxes — are usually part of the mix.

Given the reality that fees will go up, what fees would you consider raising?

One of the top of my head: Vanity plates. I’ve never really understood the allure of vanity plates, but apparently they’re quite important for those who can afford them. The initial cost is $100 (with an $8.50 filing fee) in this state with a $14 renewal charge. Should it be more?

Divorce fee – The current filing fee is about $250. If $500 were enough to discourage someone from filing for divorce, is the marriage really over?

Manicurist fee – Currently, it’s $60. Raising it would bring in some revenue, or perhaps limit the number of “nail” salons in strip malls.

Scale fee — Currently, there is no fee to test whether a gas station’s pump is actually delivering a gallon of gas. But there is a fee — $10 — to check the accuracy of the scale at a grocery store to be sure a pound of hamburger is really a pound of hamburger.

You’re on.

  • I’ll bet he recommends that the “tobacco user fee” be raised — a decision I support and have suggested.

  • Karen L. Dingle

    I’m in favor of increasing fees (i.e.taxes) on those items that harm health and that the state pays to cure, or to deal with (i.e. harmful effects). So, I’d raise taxes on liquor and wine, on services including auditors, lawyers, hairdressers, chiropractors, doctors, of course on cigarettes and smoking products….

  • CaliGuy

    By pretending that there is a distinction between a “fee” and a “tax” as you do in your post, you’re essentially carrying Pawlenty’s water for him.

    The public would be much better served if journalists would point out this cute little political sham every time Pawlenty and his ilk present it instead of playing along with such political nonsense.

  • Bob Collins

    CaliGuy, if only you would spend some time on the site and look up the last time the fee vs. tax debate came up. You’re predisposed to your conclusion and it affects your willingness to do the research. Even the most indifferent residents of Minnesota probably understand the way the governor has used fees to raise revenue and the allegations of it being a “political sham.” It’s been well covered in the past and it will be well covered again, no doubt.

    However, there’s no pretending there isn’t a difference between a fee and a tax. There is, and Minnesota courts have so ruled. We don’t get to make up facts just because we don’t like the ones that exist.

    Second, the post is meant to start a discussion, including the opinions of some that a fee and a tax are the same thing. And now you have.

    Thanks for your input.

  • bigalmn

    Gallon of Gas “Fee”

    Gallon of Ice Cream “Fee”

    Gallon of Liquor “Fee”

    Mileage “Fee”

    Public Transportation “Fee”

    Income “Fee”

  • Doug

    CaliGuy—I agree—but I think the media has covered it so much, using the term “fee”, that people just recognize it as the smoke and mirrors that it is. The DFL just needs an ok candidate and maybe they’ll win the Guv’s seat sometime in the next few elections……

  • Bob

    Bring back annual or biennial vehicle safety inspections and the attendant inspection fees. The fees so far suggested in the posts are fine, but they aren’t universal enough, and wouldn’t raise that much revenue.

    A vehicle inspection program would generate significantly more revenue than some of the other suggested fees, and would also be more value-neutral than sin taxes.

    It also would boost employment, at least in terms of inspectors, auto mechanics and auto parts stores.

    And what’s not to like about the benefits of safer driving environments and reduced social costs from fewer deaths and injuries?

  • Bob Collins

    The notion that the “fee” nomenclature is a Republican thing is wrong.

    Here, check out the vote the last time the “fee” was proposed.

    Most Democrats voted for it and only one of the MANY DFLers with gubernatorial dreams voted against it.

  • @CaliGuy – Reading the first paragraph, I found the ” around find the fee and the — around the not taxes to actually be a slam on how the Governor uses his words. The Governor will suggest raising several fees that we all know to be a tax (even if the darn laws on our books make a distinction that the courts upheld).

  • preposition dangler


    I was at Target last night (the lesser of big box evil,IMO),and clementines went up $2.00 from about a month ago.

    Clementine Fee.

    What is this world coming to?

  • tony

    How about a noise & pollution fee? (mostly noise)

    Electric Leaf blower, $100 per year.

    Gas leaf blower, $300 per year.

    Harley Davidson, $300 per year.

    Internal combustion lawn mower, $100 per year.

    Jet ski, $300 per year.

    Old car/truck/bus/RV blowing smoke, $500 per year.

    Chain saw, $50 per year.

    Quiet / electric versions of any of these devices, $25 fee per year.

    Rake, eletric mower, or push mower, 0$ per year!

  • Bob Collins

    Interesting, Tony. How about a tax/fee on subwoofers?

  • rocky balboa

    @ tony-


    direct impact at the abdomin of ‘better america’.

    (point taken)

  • Bob Collins

    Of course this brings us back to the old point I make constantly on the subject of using fees/taxes to change behavior. If you financial depend on the fee/tax, you can’t really afford for the behavior to change.

  • sheldon M

    gov is the only place where if you pay online (e.g. for license tabs) you have to pay an extra fee. (except maybe Ticket Master–but that’s another story).

    Doesn’t paying online save the org money? At least MPR says so for its members.

  • boB from WA

    Shoot, if you are going to tax things like noise, and other intangibles (how do you determine the “correct” decibel level?) lets go all out and put a fee on sun, snow, air (although I believe if you ask Praxair or one of the oxygen services they are already taxed/fee), water, fire, etc. Listening to this whole debate reminds me of the Beatles song “Taxman”.

  • Colin

    @sheldon M

    Then maybe the fees should be reversed. Charge a fee for filing a paper copy, but wave it for online filing. Like many college applications.

  • bigalmn

    One of the big things that slows down traffic is the people who love to change lanes every few seconds. We should have a change lane fee (the first 100 every month are free) which would be paid by everyone having a transponder box that would tick of a dime every time you cross the dotted lines and double if you cross a solid line.

  • Elizabeth T

    Bottle deposit: Michigan has a 10-cent deposit on all soda & beer bottles. They make money by a) bottles that don’t get returned – and – b) keeping them out of landfills, the original intent of the fee.

    Soda fee: put soda in the beer/liquor/wine sin tax. 10-cents for a 20-oz bottles; 50-cents for 2 liters.

    Bob from MPR:

    social behavior modification through fees isn’t so bad. Sure, behavior changes occur, revenue dries up … just move on and charge something else. It’s not as through there’s a shortage of things to charge

    Bob from WA:

    “correct decibel level” … the maximum noise level at work should be less than 85 dB, assuming 8 hours per day, 40 hours per week. The longer the exposure time, the less noise allowed. So, assuming another 8 hours after work, the noise shouldn’t be over 82 dB (all of which depends upon how you calculate it). I’d recommend a $1 per decibel per minute fee, applicable to rock concerts, football games, and loud parties next door.

    okay, I am joking.

  • tony

    Bob, I think you’re on to something! (subwoofer tax)

    Of course those remittances will have to be put into a special ‘lock box’ to pay for future hearing aids for these chuckle heads. 🙂

    Disclosure:I used to work for a certain hearing aid company in the ‘golden triangle’ out in Eden Prairie.