Commentary

Former DMV official explains the obvious truth about delays at driver license offices

Former state DMV official Wayne Hurder has a great column in this morning’s edition of Raleigh’s News & Observer aptly entitled “How to fix what’s wrong at DMV.” His simple and obvious solution: hire some more dadgum employees and pay them a competitive wage. In other words, Earth to Republican lawmakers: this is what you get when you run government on the cheap like the ideologues in the right-wing think tanks have been urging for so many years. Here’s Hurder:

Tired of long lines at your Driver License office? Ask your Republican legislators to call a special session to solve the problem before it gets worse. And it will get much, much worse if nothing is done.

As for having a special session to solve the problem: Republican legislators have found lots of political issues to justify special sessions. Why not a special session to solve a real problem their constituents face?

Why single out Republican legislators? They control the legislature with their super majority. They could solve the problem with a two- or three-day session. If they act now to appropriate several million dollars to hire more examiners plus increase pay, the issue of long lines could be greatly mitigated before next summer. The cost, several million dollars, is chump change for them. They found that much plus more in their 2018-’19 budget to fund “special projects” (i.e. pork barrel) for their members….

Legislators need to increase the number of examiners and their pay to reduce DMV wait times. In both respects, legislators — who are constitutionally responsible for the budget — are failing the public.

When I left DMV in 2008, we had 508 examiner positions. Now there are 552, a 10 per cent increase. But in 10 years the population has increased 12 per cent, and more importantly, the REAL ID Act has increased the amount of time required to complete a transaction.

But more examiner positions won’t solve the problem if they don’t get higher pay. In 2001 the starting pay for an examiner was $24,355. Today it is $31,200, a 28 percent increase — but the Consumer Price Index has increased 41 percent — while the job has gotten tougher, contributing to a 16 percent turnover rate….

The money is there to add staff and increase salaries. The Driver License Section brings in $5 in revenue for every $1 in expenditures.

Most importantly, new examiners can make a difference. The 2003 legislature funded 45 new examiner positions. In July 2004, DMV studied the impact of the positions on customer wait times using data captured in our electronic queuing system.

We documented that the new positions reduced wait times by 29 minutes for first time issuances and 23 minutes for renewal and duplicate issuances. The total savings was an estimated 1 million hours — from an expenditure just over $1 million.”

Good for Wayne Hurder for speaking the truth about this issue that some conservatives are already trying to demagogue by attacking the Cooper administration. Hurder’s analysis could and should be applied to dozens of essential public services (schools, healthcare, environmental protection, parks, etc…) in which anti-government crusaders have run North Carolina government into a ditch. Let’s hope all North Carolinians are paying attention and that several more Wayne Hurders come forward to speak in the weeks and months ahead. Click here to read the entire op-ed.

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