DMV requests funding to implement Real ID
The state Division of Motor Vehicles wants to spend nearly $1.4 million to hire 45 new employees to handle the extra burden of implementing the federal Real ID Act.
The agency also says it hopes to invest $3 million over the next five years to upgrade its 20-year-old computer system.
DMV Commissioner Joe Miller included the spending plans as part of the Department of Transportation's 2014 fiscal year budget request.
Earlier this year, the DMV implemented provisions of the federal Real ID Act, which enforces stringent proof-of-identity requirements for anyone trying to get a photo ID.
The post-9/11 law proposed by President George W. Bush and passed by Congress in 2005 was meant to boost security in the identification process.
All but one of the 19 terrorists who hijacked airplanes on 9/11 had identification cards that should not have been issued. The Real ID Act was Congress' effort to keep that from happening again.
Anyone renewing a driver's license or applying for a new one now must show DMV workers specific documents as proof of their identity and residency. Residents now have to show an official copy of their birth certificate or a U.S. Passport before getting a license.
The act also requires the DMV to scan these documents and store them permanently.
The process gets more complicated for women who have changed their name through marriage or divorce. They have to provide official copies of their marriage certificates and divorce orders.
The new requirements have infuriated some state residents, especially seniors, because of the work and amount of time it takes to track down all necessary documentation.
In his annual budget request to the State Budget Office, Miller admitted the new requirements have been taxing the DMV's resources.
"These changes have increased the transaction time to serve our customers, creating a need for additional personnel," Miller said.
Complicating the matter is the fact that the agency's computer systems are relics of the 20th century.
"While these systems were state-of-the-art 20 years ago, current technology is PC-based and Internet supported," Miller said. "These standalone systems are unable to communicate with each other, requiring redundant data entry.
"This reduces the Division's ability to efficiently manage the information of our customers," he said.
Miller said the agency plans to begin the process of upgrading the system. Officials hope to advertise for proposals from technology firms to upgrade their system next year.
While that will help streamline the agency's process, Miller said more employees would still be needed to handle the longer customer transactions.
"To address this issue, the Division estimates that it will need an additional 45 employees at an annual cost of $1,350,000 to maintain the customer service level expected by our customers and the Legislature," he said.
Historically, the State Road Fund has paid for driver's license program costs.
But with that fund unable to cover the state's road needs, officials have been reluctant to tap it to cover Real ID costs.
The DMV has also had to absorb some additional operational costs by implementing the Real ID requirements. Those costs totaled about $1.9 million last year.
So far, the agency has been able to offset some costs by securing federal grants and strategically planning other expenditures. Revenue from the Motor Vehicle Fees Fund covered the rest.
While that fund has enough revenue to cover costs for the upcoming budget year, Miller said lawmakers would need to find some other way to supplement the revenue in coming years.
Otherwise, the Department of Transportation will have to start using State Road Fund revenue to start covering the costs.
While Miller is requesting the new employees and additional funding, there's no guarantee he will get them.
His proposal was included in the Department of Transportation's overall budget request.
Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin and budget office staff members are in the process of reviewing all agency requests this fall.
The winner of this November's gubernatorial election will take the proposals under consideration when the governor crafts the fiscal year 2014 budget bill and presents it to the Legislature in February.
Most state agencies have been asked to cut general revenue fund spending by 7.5 percent next year.
Because mostly fees and driver taxes - not general revenue tax collections - fund the DMV, the 7.5 percent reduction order does not apply to it.
In the end, the governor and Legislature will have the option to make changes as they work on the Budget Bill.