DOL's e-plan should save money and benefit its customers

Under the plan, vehicle owners now have the option of receiving renewal notices by e-mail.

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The state Department of Licensing has embarked on an e-plan it's pitching as a way to protect the environment and save taxpayers money.

We, of course, like the idea of protecting the environment while saving money.

But we -- like this community -- are a bit skeptical and skittish when it comes to the DOL's money-saving schemes. A year ago it targeted Walla Walla's only DOL office for closure as part of a statewide cost-cutting effort. If this plan had come to fruition, folks living in this Valley would have had to drive 60 miles to Kennewick to take driving tests and do other DOL business.

It was an absurd plan that would have created a significant hardship for taxpayers here. Eventually, after a public outcry and intervention by our legislators, the DOL agreed to keep the office on Jade Street open.

But this time around the DOL plan, which involves vehicle licensing rather than driver's licenses, would seem to be extremely positive. Vehicle licensing and registration now takes place at the Walla Walla County Courthouse in the Auditor's Office.

That would continue. However, vehicle owners now have the option of receiving renewal notices by e-mail.

The e-mail notice provides all of the information on a traditional paper renewal notice, including a direct link to DOL's online vehicle tab renewal system, according to the state. The vehicle tabs can be ordered at that time.

"We hope people embrace e-mail renewal notices and sign up quickly because they really are a win for everybody," DOL Director Liz Luce said. "They streamline the tab renewals, save trees and save the state money at a time we need to find ways to cut back."

The DOL contends that this new system could avoid printing 1 million notices over the next year. This would save 2,000 reams of paper and 2 million envelopes -- or approximately 150 trees and about $500,000 in printing and mailing costs, according to the DOL.

"More and more people are embracing the Internet as a way to receive and pay their household bills," Luce said. "Because we have almost 7 million vehicles in our state, the environmental benefits and cost savings could potentially be much larger."

This would also seem to be a welcome convenience for the customer. Cutting costs doesn't have to be painful for taxpayers if the plan is well thought out.

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