SPRINGFIELD - A change in how the state licenses small trailers for boats and lawnmowers is becoming campaign fodder in the race to become Illinois' next secretary of state.
State Sen. Dan Rutherford, R-Chenoa, who is challenging incumbent Democrat Jesse White, says a new payment schedule for the licenses will allow White's office to reap an $888,000 windfall.
White's office will be selling 10-month small-trailer license plates for the next year so it can shift the renewal schedule to April. Currently, the permits, also referred to as TA license plates, expire in June.
The date change is being marketed as a way to help customers avoid the June renewal rush.
"We moved them all to April because April was normally a slow month," said Ernie Dannenberger, a secretary of state spokesman.
Rutherford says this is misleading.
"The irony of the increase is that current Secretary of State Jesse White notified Illinois residents of the fee under the guise of better service," said Rutherford in a prepared statement. "Providing better service should mean shortening the long lines, modernizing antiquated technology and not hiding fee increases."
The 10-month plate will cost $17 opposed to the usual $18. However, the more than 460,000 people estimated to seek renewal during this period will end up paying an additional 20 cents per month.
Dannenberger said the agency is using the same rates it always has for people who purchase the plates for less than a year. The extra money will go to the road fund, but there are no specific plans for it yet, he said.
James Codding, owner of Codding Lawn Maintenance in Normal, said he hadn't thought about how much the state makes from a change like this.
"We have three trailers that we have to license," Codding said. "So I mean it isn't going to affect us too much, but, you know, anytime we have more costs."
The general election will be Nov. 7.