SPRINGFIELD — The Illinois secretary of state’s office plans to continue mailing out license plate renewal notices in the new year, with or without a new budget deal between Republican Gov. Bruce Rauner and the Democratic leaders of the General Assembly.
“The plan is to maintain them” for the time being, Dave Drucker, a spokesman for Secretary of State Jesse White’s office, said of the mailed notices.
But Drucker said the office won’t be able to continue mailing them out indefinitely without additional funding from a budget for the remainder of the state’s fiscal year, which runs through June.
The stopgap spending plan that’s funding operations at most state agencies, including the secretary of state’s office, is set to expire Dec. 31, and it’s been two weeks since Rauner and the four top legislative leaders have met to discuss the budget.
Mailed reminders notifying drivers of the impending expiration of their license plate registration stickers were one of the first widely noticed causalities of the state’s budget impasse when it began last year. The office resumed mailing out notices in August after the current stopgap deal was approved.
The secretary of state’s office hopes Rauner and the Democratic leaders reach a budget agreement before the notices are cut off again, Drucker said.
However, if the office has to stop sending them due to lack of funding, a new state law will protect vehicle owners from late fees.
The law, which lawmakers passed in June and Rauner signed in August, waives the $20 late fee during times when the secretary of state’s office isn’t mailing out notices. The number of people being charged late fees more than doubled when they weren’t being mailed out.
The new law would also allow drivers to use the fact that notices aren’t being mailed out as a defense against police citations for driving with expired registration. A response to the budget standoff, the law is set to expire June 30.
Drucker said White hopes to introduce a bill this spring that would allow his office to sell advertising space on the renewal notices to help offset the cost.
Meanwhile, no visible progress is being made on the budget.
Rauner hasn’t met with the Democratic leaders — House Speaker Michael Madigan and Senate President John Cullerton, both of Chicago — since Dec. 6. The governor canceled the next scheduled meeting after he said Democrats declined to present a budget proposal.
“When they indicate they’re ready to have a good-faith negotiation, and so far they have not, we’ll meet every day,” Rauner said last week at an unrelated event in Springfield.
Democrats say it’s the governor’s responsibility to present a budget plan and that they stand ready to meet with Rauner to continue negotiating.