BEAUFORT, CARTERET COUNTY - Three Republican senators from Eastern Carolina are sponsors of a proposed bill that would increase registration fees for boat owners.
Registration fees currently cost $15 for one year and $40 for three years, regardless of the size of the boat. But under the new bill, registration fees would be based on the lengths of the vessels.
The one-year registration fees would be as follows:
- Boats less than 14 feet long... $15
- Boats 14 to 19-feet long... $25
- Boats 20 to 25 feet long... $50
- Boats 26 to 40 feet long... $100
- Boats longer than 40 feet... $150
The three-year registration fees would be as follows:
- Boats less than 14 feet long... $45
- Boats 14 to 19 feet long... $75
- Boats 20 to 25 feet long... $150
- Boats 26 to 39 feet long... $300
- Boats longer than 40 feet... $450
"I think they should keep them the way they are," said Kevin O'Conner, who owns a 23-foot boat. "If they keep raising them, then people will stay off the water. It's bad enough what you have to pay on fees. I enjoy taking my family out on the boat and if they keep increasing fees, it will be harder to do."
Sponsors of the bill stated that shallow inlet dredging projects are an issue of statewide importance, as many travel to the coast for boating recreation. Lawmakers said the increased boat fees would generate $6 million every year, to help keep "boat highways" clean.
Boat owner Bob Ethridge said he supports the higher boat fees. He said it would give owners of larger boats the ability to come and leave the inlets as they please.
"I think it is a great idea to raise the price," said Ethridge. "I don't mind paying extra, as long as they take the tax and put it towards dredging."
But boat owner Tim Dutton said he believes the increase in registration fees could have a negative effect on the boating industry.
"Boat manufacturing is big in North Carolina, and this is one thing that could hurt an industry that is already in a big recession," Dutton said.
A share of the registration fees would continue to go into the Wildlife Resource Fund, to pay for other boating and water-related projects. If the bill becomes a law, it would take effect on July 1st, 2013.