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News Release

Registering Vehicles Online Makes Customer Sense

by Texas Comptroller Carole Keeton Rylander

When we launched e-Texas in November 1999 to improve state government standards and efficiency, we knew we needed to make customer-service the focus of state government - whether it be online or in person.

E-Texas co-chairs, Dr. Wendy Lee Gramm, The Honorable Thomas Loeffler, and Hector De Leon, along with the 14 task force commissioners who are leading volunteer teams are dedicated to making sure Texas government can meet the challenges of the Internet age. When we undertook this initiative, we knew there were time- and tax-saving ideas that would come to our attention almost immediately.

For example, it costs no more than 40 cents per transaction for motorists to register their vehicles online, while, according to a survey by Andersen Consulting, a traditional office visit to register or re-register a vehicle is estimated to cost anywhere from $40 to $400 per transaction.

Mark Boyer, the former commissioner of Alaska's Department of Administration, says Alaska cut its costs for registering automobiles from $7.75 to 91 cents. Allowing telephone and online registration also slashed the transaction time for the customer from two-and-a-half hours to just under three minutes.

In Massachusetts, drivers can pay traffic fines with a credit card, handle vehicle registrations and buy special license plates online. Virginians can go online to file address changes, create or buy license plates, get identification cards, replace driver's licenses, renew vehicle registrations, request administrative hearings, and order copies of their DMV records.

These are great examples of smaller, smarter government; looking for those examples is what e-Texas is all about.

Because Texas automobile owners register their vehicles annually - either in person or by mail -- offering online service and payment options could generate significant time and tax savings for the state.

Texas isn't alone in the need to implement changes to save tax dollars.

Although several states currently accept online vehicle registrations, three out of four state motor vehicle agencies do not offer the opportunity to conduct DMV business online, according to the Andersen Consulting study. At the end of 1999, when the survey was conducted, 13 states offered online transactions, nine accepted online vehicle registration, and seven allowed drivers to order license plates electronically.

In the Alaska program's infancy, only about 9 percent of the renewals and personalized license plate requests occurred online or over the telephone. After three weeks of television commercials, that figure jumped to 12 percent. Bottomline, the state recouped the $300,000 budgeted for the online vehicle registration project within four months. And the Department of Motor Vehicle employees received a pay raise as a result of the money-saving efforts.

We recognize that moving government functions to the Internet is not a panacea. There are those who have tried such experiments and failed, and those like Alaska's Boyer who have succeeded. That's why our e-Texas effort is consulting experts like Boyer to warn us about the potential pitfalls.

The results of this information- and idea-harvesting by e-Texas teams are being passed along to the agencies responsible for implementing time- and money-saving ideas. In fact, my office is currently conducting a Texas Performance Review of the Texas Department of Transportation to highlight its best practices and suggest improvements in service delivery. The agency is currently working to implement online vehicle registration to save you time and money.

Here at the Texas Comptroller's office, we are emphasizing Internet use by making sales tax forms and some tax reporting available online - with plans to do more. We are implementing changes based on the e-Texas principle of using technology to transform Texas government from its traditional bricks and mortar foundation to a national leader that uses bytes, chips and satellite airwaves to deliver services.

Task force hearings and meetings are continuing across the state to harvest more time- and money-saving ideas. We encourage people to send us their ideas via e-mail to [email protected] and to follow our progress at www.e-texas.org.

In the end, our recommendations will make Texas government smarter and smaller - and faster. I believe that in the not-too-distant future, e-government will be government.

e-Texas is an initiative of Carole Keeton Rylander, Texas Comptroller of Public Accounts
Post Office Box 13528, Capitol Station
Austin, Texas

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