Fong balks at DMV request for additional millions

Rebecca Neipp

News Review Staff Writer

Fong balks  at DMV  request for  additional  millionsAmid controversy in the Department of Motor Vehicles — which recently saw its department head resign after months of scandal relating to poor service, low accountability, mishandled personal information and a poorly implemented voter registration program — the department is now requesting an additional $40 million.

Newly elected Gov. Gavin Newsom doubled down on the DMV request with a plan to increase funding to “modernize and reinvent” the department. However, Assemblyman Vince Fong, the conservative representative from Kern County, criticized any plan that did not detail specific steps to correct dysfunction and hold the agency accountable.

“The egregious management failures of the DMV have been self-evident, which is why I have been calling for new leadership and a comprehensive independent audit of this troubled state agency over and over again as the problems grew significantly worse.”

In the last two state budget packages, the legislature awarded DMV an additional $23 million to fund 281 positions during the 2017-18 cycle and another $47 million in the 2018-19 cycle to implement the REAL ID program, which was supposed to allow a simplified mechanism for citizens to register to vote.

Tens of thousands of errors were reported across the state in the “Motor Voter” program, including scores of reports from IWV residents who complained that they were forced to cast provisional ballots after DMV changed their information without authorization.

“This is not a money issue, this is clearly a management issue,” said Fong. “We need to ensure that there is real structural reform before we give another dime to the DMV.”

Fong and other conservative legislators called for an audit of the department. The audit was ultimately denied based on claims that it would pose too much of a financial strain on the department. So in response to the significant wait times at DMV offices, the legislature further augmented the department’s budget by $16.6 million to hire an addition 230 staff — on top of the aforementioned increases in allocations each year in the state budget.

“We have yet to see a detailed plan on what is being done to address the growing structural problems at the DMV,” Fong said in a joint statement with Assemblyman Jim Patterson of Fresno. “More bureaucracy cannot be the only answer when we have organizations and innovative technologies that are available to assist in providing needed DMV services to Californians.

Fong and Patterson both serve on the Assembly Budget Committee on Natural Resources and Transportation, which will review the DMV request.

Fong also serves as the vice chair of the Assembly Transportation Committee.

Story First Published: 2019-01-11