Friday, October 07, 2005

Closing BMV Branches is False Economics

It is supremely ironic that as gasoline prices top $3.00 per gallon, the Indiana Bureau of Motor Vehicles is deciding that thousands of Hoosiers should drive dozens of more miles just to get the services that state government requires of them.

The BMV is completely missing the point. Of course many of us who serve in the General Assembly want to see government costs go down. We have been making the point for years that the cost of operating the BMV is escalating out of control. But the whole point is to save taxpayers money. This isn’t about the sanctity of the state’s treasury, it’s about the cost of living to our citizens.

Today, we learned that more branches across the state are being closed. The reason appears to be that each transaction at those branches costs state government something in the vicinity of 30 cents. So now those affected motorists will have to drive additional distances (up to 30 miles per round trip in some cases) to help the BMV save 30 cents.

Am I missing something here? How are we making Hoosiers better off by forcing them to buy a gallon or two of gasoline out of their weekly checks so that we can save them 30 cents in taxes? Never mind that it may now take another hour of a person’s time to complete the required transaction, even if they show up with all of the proper documents the first time. Never mind that lines in the larger branches will balloon even further. Never mind that the closings will have an adverse impact on the economies of the small towns that struggle so hard to bring people to their business districts.

If the BMV can’t figure out ways to make transactions less expensive, then the bureaucrats should at least hold off on their decisions until the legislature can address reasonable alternatives. Sure – citizens don’t like the idea of paying an extra dollar for each transaction, but most would clearly rather pay the dollar than buy another gallon of gas and spend another hour getting to the branch.

Does anyone else remember that the license branches were once privately operated at a profit with less cost to the taxpayers and motorists than we are spending now? If Indiana can privatize its prisons, wouldn’t privatizing license branches be worth discussing?

Government exists to combine resources so that citizens are better off. Sometimes, bureaucrats forget that. They begin to think that government exists so that they can brag about what they have accomplished. The Bureau of Motor Vehicles needs to look at what is happening across the country and state and work to reduce the burden on the people who, one way or the other, pay the bill.