Got that nagging feeling you've forgotten something?
Better go outside and check the date of your license plate sticker. You could be among the thousands of drivers oblivious -- thanks to the state budget crisis -- that their vehicle registration has expired.
Illinois Secretary of State Jesse White suspended mailing out reminders in September, noting it could save $450,000 a month.
Without that memory jog, renewals plummeted 19 percent in November, when 413,709 Illinoisans applied compared to 512,760 in November 2014.
And as of Dec. 28, only 301,965 people had renewed their stickers in December 2015, as opposed to 475,314 for the entire month of December 2014, the agency reported. That's a 36 percent drop.
Halting reminders "is not something we wanted to do," secretary of state's office spokesman Dave Druker said. Latecomers are subject to a $20 fee on top of the $101 renewal cost and become easy prey for expensive traffic tickets.
But the agency was running out of money after feuding between Democrats and Gov. Bruce Rauner failed to produce a state budget in July.
The secretary of state's office is hard-pressed to pay for leasing office space and utilities already, Druker said. "The feeling was to prioritize mailing out the stickers and titles," he noted.
Crowds were light at the secretary of state facility in Lombard on New Year's Eve, but an administrator said the office was packed earlier in the week with numerous chagrined drivers.
Chicagoan Kim Dyson would have forgotten to renew if not for a valet parker who pointed out the pending expiration.
The notice "always was the trigger that encouraged me to come and get my updated sticker," said Dyson, formerly of Burr Ridge. "They're not mailing them ... yet at the same time, you can still get a ticket."
Elmhurst resident Ron Spingola showed up Thursday because "yesterday I looked at my son's license plate and saw it was going to expire today.
"If you had one vehicle, it wouldn't be that big a deal. But if you have multiple vehicles in a household and they all have different registration times, it's harder to manage," Spingola said.
Des Plaines resident Joe Schart, who contacted me in early December, remembered to renew in the nick of time but is irked by the lack of communication.
"With the new year right around the corner, I just know that folks whose registration expired late in 2015 -- and are unaware of this -- will be getting pulled over in 2016 as the old sticker's color will become obvious to any law enforcement officer who happens to be behind the poor soul," Schart said.
In Naperville, the state's fifth-largest city, police reported no significant increases in expired-registration tickets.
So what can you do?
• One easy option is to renew online or by phone. It takes five to 10 days for stickers to arrive by mail. You will need the registration ID and PIN numbers that can be found on license plate registration cards. If those are unavailable, call the public inquiry office at (800) 252-8980.
• If time is short or you prefer in-person registration, go to a secretary of state facility or currency exchange. Be sure to bring your registration and PIN numbers.
• Sign up for renewal email reminders at www.ilsos.gov/greenmail/. About 1.6 million people are signed up so far.
• For more information, go to www.cyberdriveillinois.com/.
Lots of responses to a column on possibly tolling a new lane on I-55. Pete Hybert of Wheaton said he's driven on highways with carpool lanes that are "OK" if enforced. "But they won't fix the real problem," Hybert said. "Right now, all lanes are filled and move slowly during rush hour. Assuming that nobody in their right mind is choosing to drive during rush hour just for fun, that traffic load is a given. That volume of cars isn't going to decrease even if it costs more. Raising the fees for certain lanes will just push some of that traffic out of those lanes and worsen the gridlock on the remaining lanes."
You should know
Congress gave employees who take transit a big bonus in 2016 by increasing a pretax benefit. Up until now, commuters got just $130 a month in pretax deductions from their paychecks for Metra, CTA or Pace fares. This year, it's $255, on par with parking. To learn more, go to mytransitbenefit.com/.
Pace raises case fares
If you pay in cash, Pace is raising base fares for adults this year by 25 cents, to $2 from $1.75. Riders who use the Ventra card will not see any changes. The intent is to reduce the number of riders paying in cash, Pace said.