...People who dont own boats should pay for those who do. People who dont own cars shouldnt pay for those who do. The bigger the boat or car...the bigger the fee. Thats how it goes.....
Therein lies the debate, Chef. (did you mean shouldn't in the first sentence?) Should users pay, or should everyone pay?
Before we explore this beyond civility, let's agree that our government has never actually analyzed or adopted a cohesive approach to this debate. Each successive administration, regardless of party, simply looks to how to fund their interests. We are where we are because the weakest electorate loses, not because it is wise.
While that statement makes this an academic question, boat registration fees are theoretically a user fee that could be focused on the cost of providing a service. If that make sense, then I suppose those without children may not have to pay school taxes, or those with six children should pay more than those with two. How about bridge tolls? Those are the perfect user fee, but have notoriously exceeded the actual cost of the building and maintaining the bridge. What we have is a mess that defies any single principal.
In the end, all of these issues can be argued to provide a benefit to many and not just the user. Educated kids are necessary for our future. Bridges are necessary to move food to our stores. Boaters are necessary to keep marinas hiring everyone from college kids to mechanics, manufacturers making boats and indeed attracting people to live in waterfront communities.
The problem is that we have become addicted to all the taxes and fees, not a well thought out focused approach.
So why does a boat need to be registered at all? What meaningful public good does that serve? Titling serves a purpose of protecting personal property rights (the most fundamental right that has driven the US to be the wealthiest country in the world. Your stuff cant be taken away which caused lots of people to immigrate and invest here) But registration is just a user fee.
A mix of general contribution and user fees is probably the right answer. However, the user fee should be very specifically tied to an incremental service. You can't take more than that service cost and it's efficiency should be a matter for the users themselves to scrutinize. If we as the consumers of the service are exclusively paying for it, we should exclusively be ale to vote on who runs it, how much they are paid, etc. When an issue is for the greater good and you don't want to turn its destiny over to the boating community exclusively, then everyone should pay. When the issue is so specific that you are willing to turn its destiny exclusively over to the boating community, then user fees should pay for it.
I will leave this last piint unaddressed for now. If two boats use exactly the same service without generating more relative cost than the other, nav aids for example, why would the longer boat pay more? Just cuz they must have the money is the most common answer. And we're back to the beginning.
There's my stand. Fire away.