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DMV Wait is So Long Your New Car Qualifies for Historic Plates

There’s a long-running joke in California that instead of jail time to punish the “bad guys,” just make them wait in line at the DMV office instead. That joke isn’t as far-fetched these days as some residents who have to use DMV services are subject to wait times of eight hours or longer.

DMV officials blame the longer wait times on the implementation of the federal REAL ID Act. This law requires all residents who want to board any commercial flight or enter military bases and most federal facilities to get a REAL ID-compliant driver’s license or identification card by October 1, 2020.

To handle the extra processing work of implementing the new ID cards at DMV offices, California’s Legislature allocated an extra $23 million to the DMV in the 2017-18 FY budget. Those additional millions of dollars came with the promise of hiring 218 more workers, extending office hours from 9 a.m. to 7 p.m., Monday through Friday, and to open 60 field offices from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Saturdays.

As with many government programs, promises made are far less often promises kept.

DMV offices continue to close at 5 p.m. instead of staying open until the promised 7 p.m. Monday through Friday. Saturday hours have been limited to just 40 field offices that are open from 8 a.m. to 1 p.m. only twice a month. The DMV’s answer to the problem? More money.

The DMV has already received an increase of 550 positions and $46 million in this year’s budget. It is expected to ask for nearly 2,000 additional positions and $151 million more to handle REAL-ID workload over the next four years.  All of this is on top of the annual operating budget it already receives.  Add it all up and the DMV says it needs more than $220 million over six years to implement the Real ID Act.

The sad truth about this entire DMV fiasco is that it didn’t have to be this way. The REAL ID Act was enacted in 2005 with plans for the Department of Homeland Security to approve each state’s enforcement plan by 2013. The DMV has had eight years to prepare for the act’s deadline. California Governor Jerry Brown’s administration still has requested an extension of several years, yet the DMV has been given tens of millions of dollars for the Real ID implementation.

Before giving the DMV one more dollar, California residents deserve to know what the heck has happened to the many tens of millions of dollars already provided for the new staff, new offices and extended hours.

It’s past time for these tortuous lines to stop. California residents should never have to wait for hours outside the DMV office in 100-plus degree heat just to see a DMV employee to upgrade their government-mandated ID. The only way to ensure promises made are promises kept and get this broken process fixed is to audit the DMV immediately. Californians deserve better.

Jeff Stone represents California’s 28th Senate District. The district, which is entirely in Riverside County, stretches from the vineyards of the Temecula Valley to the Colorado River and includes the cities of Blythe, Canyon Lake, Cathedral City, Coachella, Desert Hot Springs, Indian Wells, Indio, Lake Elsinore, La Quinta, Murrieta, Temecula, Palm Desert, Palm Springs, Rancho Mirage and Wildomar.

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