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Truckers Fight Oregon’s Money Grab

SALEM, Ore. (CN) - Trucking, construction and insurance groups sued Oregon, claiming it used road money to build websites instead - then jacked up the cost of driving records by nearly 400 percent to recoup some of the money it spent illegally.

Oregon Trucking Associations Inc. and six other plaintiffs accuse the state's Department of Transportation and Department of Administrative Services of "diverting revenues from the Highway Trust Fund to build websites for state administrative agencies."

The groups claim the agencies did this despite being advised they did not have the authority to do it - and that Oregon hiked the cost of obtaining public driving records by 384 percent to cover the cost of the websites.

"The unauthorized increase in cost of driving records and the unconstitutional diversion of the revenues from the sale of the driving records sacrifice Oregonian's jobs and motoring safety so that the state agencies may have nicer websites," the complaint states.

The nonprofit Oregon Trucking Associations is joined by plaintiffs Oregon-Idaho AAA, the Oregon-Columbia Chapter of the Associated General Contractors of America, Redmond Heavy Hauling, Gordon Wood Insurance and Financial Services, Property Casualty Insurers Association of America, and the National Association of Mutual Insurance Companies.

The plaintiffs claim the Oregon Attorney General's Office already told the agencies they did not have the authority to take these actions on their own and advised them to ask the Legislature.

The Oregon Constitution limits the use of the fund "to the construction, reconstruction, improvement, repair, maintenance, operation and use of the state's public highways, roads, streets and roadside rest areas," the complaint reads.

The plaintiffs claim that the defendant Department of Administrative Services (DAS) asked the Legislature a year ago to authorize the state Department of Transportation to grant DAS an exclusive license to provide electronic access to state driving records and allow the DAS to use the money from selling of the records to build and maintain state agency websites. The Legislature refused to adopt the bill.

Despite that, the Department of Transportation gave DAS a 10-year exclusive license to provide access to driving records, the complaint states. The DAS in turn entered into an agreement with Kansas corporation NICUSA, to would provide people electronic access to driving records; in exchange, NICUSA would provide DAS with website services.

The current cost of driving records is $2, according to the complaint. The cost would increase to $9.68 per record: a 384 percent increase.

As a result, the fund will receive less revenue, ODOT will build fewer roads and provide fewer repairs, at the possible cost of more accidents and lost lives: "a reduction in highway care that will result in a reduction in highway safety and increase adverse effects on the natural environment," the complaint states.

The plaintiffs want the money from purchase of driving records returned to the Highway Trust Fund.

They are represented in Marion County Court by Gregory Chaimov with Davis Wright Tremaine of Portland.

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