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License plate sticker late fees surge without reminders

Illinois' budget meltdown has more than doubled the number of hapless drivers who forgot to renew their vehicle registration in time and must pay a $20 fine after the Illinois secretary of state's office suspended mailing reminders.

Recent data shows there were 136,101 people who renewed their license plate stickers late, resulting in $2.7 million in fees between Jan. 1 and Feb. 22. That's more than double the numbers from 2015, with 63,147 tardies handing over $1.26 million, according to secretary of state statistics.

The agency's not rejoicing, spokesman Dave Druker said. “If there was a budget, we wouldn't have had this situation. We were running out of money in the account.”

Temporarily stopping reminders saves $450,000 a month.

Druker noted that the fines go into the general revenue fund and Secretary of State Jesse White supports a bill pending in the Illinois House that would drop the $20 late fee until the budget impasse is resolved.

“We don't have the ability to do that by ourselves. It has to be done by state law,” Druker said.

Feuding between Democrats and Republican Gov. Bruce Rauner has left Illinois budgetless since July. White suspended the reminders in September; the first drivers affected had registrations due Nov. 30 followed by a one-month grace period until the fee kicked in Jan. 1.

As more collateral damage, the Illinois Environmental Protection Agency stopped mailing out reminders of emissions testing in December. Normally, missing an up-to-date emissions test means drivers can't renew their registrations, but White temporarily waived that requirement.

To learn more about how renewing your vehicle registration and getting email reminders, go to www.cyberdriveillinois.com/. For emissions tests, go to www.epa.illinois.gov.

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