Lamont And Stefanowski Agree On This: Something Must Be Done About The DMV

Just when it seemed that nothing could unite Ned Lamont and Bob Stefanowski, who differ on taxes, tolls, the minimum wage and Donald Trump, there is something — a shared loathing for the state Department of Motor Vehicles.

The Democratic and Republican gubernatorial foes are both seeking to overhaul the much-criticized agency, with Lamont the latest to get in on the action with an eight-point plan that he announced at a New Haven press conference on Monday.

Stefanowski has been campaigning for months on privatizing the agency as part of a broader economic plan that calls for the state income tax repeal.

Lamont wants to increase the number of transactions that can be done online instead of having to visit the DMV, which has been plagued by long lines and computer software problems.

The renewal period for driver’s licenses would be extended from six to eight years and from two to three years for motor vehicle registrations under Lamont’s plan.

The Greenwich telecommunications magnate said he will bring an agency “stuck in the past” into the 21st century by introducing cloud technology to the DMV, self-service kiosks and creating express service centers at a number of city and town halls.

“Let’s be honest – nobody likes going to the DMV,” Lamont wrote in his action plan. “Wait times regularly turn what should be a quick visit into a daylong ordeal. Residents who should be treated as well as customers at any private business are subjected to extended delays, confusing requirements, and poor service. Errands that require 10 minutes in other states require a day off work in Connecticut. Even efforts to upgrade the system become mired in delay and disappointment.”

Stefanowski’s campaign issued a statement Monday saying that the DMV needs to be run like a business and that won’t happen as long as it remains a public sector agency.

“From day one, Bob Stefanowski has been consistent about his plan to overhaul the DMV disaster that has been emblematic of the failure of the Malloy administration,” the statement read. “Ned Lamont’s plan sounds like more of the same. Bob’s plan to modernize the DMV includes a complete privatization of the agency’s functions. The DMV needs a change in leadership and priorities that will increase efficiency, reduce wait times and provide better quality service to the state, and that’s only going to happen with Bob Stefanowski as governor.”

Oz Griebel, an independent candidate who is the former CEO of the MetroHartford Alliance, has also proposed privatizing the DMV and the state Department of Community and Economic Development.

The DMV, a $66 million annual operation with about 650 employees, declined to comment.

The agency has struggled to repair its reputation from a series of high-profile blunders, from branch closures because of technology upgrades to the controversial roll-out of driver’s license program for undocumented immigrants.

In 2015, the agency was forced to shutter most of its nonlicensing offices for four days so it could replace its 40-year-old computer system with new software that Lamont referred to as a $26 million “lemon.” The ragged transition led to long lines and irate customers.

Not long after, Andres Ayala Jr. resigned as DMV commissioner, sparking a debate whether such a visible customer service supervisor should be a political patronage job.

The DMV was further blamed for voter registration delays before the presidential primaries in April 2016 because election officials rely on the agency’s computer database for residency verification.

Lamont’s plan for transforming the DMV would allow drivers to renew licenses remotely and said Connecticut should emulate states such as Louisiana, which allows drivers to keep a digital copy of their license on their phone or electronic device.

It’s unclear whether a Lamont administration would charge more for licenses that are valid for two additional years — the plan doesn’t say. There are no cost estimates for opening express service centers at city and town halls, either.


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