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Traffic Talk: Tire recycling fee debate goes round and round

Don Gammill: New car owner balks at double fees on tires.
By DON GAMMILL Published: May 14, 2012
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Robert was proud of his new car, but he was far from happy when he learned he had to pay a fee on the also-new tires.

Still steaming from that realization, he boiled over when he went to the tag agency to register his shiny new vehicle and was told he had to pay that fee on the new tires again.

“It just isn't fair,” he said. “Those are brand new tires. I'm not disposing of them. I plan to use them a long, long time. But I got stuck with a waste tire charge. What the heck is that?”

It's called The Oklahoma Waste Tire Recycling Program, Robert, and it's been around several years.

Unfortunately, you just got to learn about your “participation” in it.

“State law requires Oklahoma tire dealers to collect waste tire recycling fees on each new tire sold and tag agencies to collect at first time registration of vehicles...” a pamphlet produced for the state Department of Environmental Quality says in describing the program.

The Legislature created the Waste Tire Indemnity Fund in 1990 with the intent to help clean up existing tire dumps in Oklahoma, as well as to stop development of any new ones.

Good idea, right?

You might remember, there was a $1 fee for every car tire and $3.50 fee for each truck tire purchased.

Early on, there were problems with the way the account was handled and how it was used.

For instance, about eight years ago, the fund was getting about $4.5 million a year from fees tacked on to new-tire sales and vehicle registrations. The money went to the Oklahoma Tax Commission and the state Department of Environmental Quality.

But the companies that were handling tire recycling were hindered by low budget totals and slow payment.

Part of the problem was that the Legislature tapped the account — more than once — moving the money to the general fund.

In 1997, the fees, which would have expired in 1999, were made permanent. In 2004, a change was made in how money from the fees paid into the fund was distributed.

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