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April 26, 07

NEWS / Legislation to increase vital records fees is defeated in committee

RACINE COUNTY — The cost of buying birth, marriage and death records from the Register of Deeds office won’t make the big jump as proposed in Gov. Jim Doyle’s budget.

The state Legislature’s Joint Finance Committee recently removed from the budget the governor’s proposed vital records fee increases, which would have generated an additional $10 million in the first year for the state, said State Rep. Robin Vos, R-Caledonia.

Currently, an official record costs $7 for a marriage or death certificate and $12 for a birth certificate. Additional copies of any of them cost $3 apiece.

Under Doyle’s budget, each and every copy of an official record would have cost $20. The higher fee would have generated additional revenue for the state since the state keeps 80 percent of fees from Register of Deeds offices; 20 percent is retained locally.

“What does the state of Wisconsin do when a birth certificate is issued? Absolutely nothing,” Vos said, adding that Racine County Register of Deeds Jim Ladwig does all the work related to the record.

Vos said the proposed fee increases were another example of how rather than trying to make government more efficient or holding down costs, Doyle was passing along a hidden fee that people wouldn’t realize until they needed one of these documents.

The impact would have been especially large on people needing copies of death certificates.

Ladwig said that people typically pay for six of them, some buy 10 or more copies, and a few people need 40 or 50. When there is a death in the family, the surviving spouse, sibling, parents, relative or guardian often must buy multiple copies of death records. Ladwig explained that insurance companies, banks, government agencies and others require a certified copy of the death record in order to close out accounts, grant benefits and so on.

Ten copies of a death record would cost $34 under the existing fee structure. Under the original budget proposal, those copies would have cost $200.

Vos said the last thing that’s needed is requiring people to take out their checkbooks and pay exorbitant amounts for these records.

Vos said fees should be based on the cost of providing a service and taxes should be directed to the area its taxing for, and only if it’s needed. There’s currently enough money coming into state government to ensure health, welfare and safety.

It was possible a lawmaker might offer an amendment to restore the fee, but Vos didn’t think that was likely given the negotiations in the Joint Finance Committee.

“It’s good news for taxpayers,” Vos said.
By Brent Killackey
Journal Times

Tags: death certificat, death certificate, marriage, birth certificat, copies of death certificate, document, birth certificate, vital records,


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