LANSING, Mich. (Michigan News Source) – Michiganders purchasing license plates could find an unexpected fee after a new proposal that automatically signs residents up for the Department of Natural Resources recreational passport.

What is the recreational passport?

The passport allows folks to visit any of the more than 100 state parks and recreational areas, state forest campgrounds, and parking for the hundreds of miles of trails around Michigan.

MORE NEWS: Illegal Mexican National Charged with Home Invasion and Sexual Assault in St. Joseph County

Historically, the Recreational Park pass could be purchased the same time as a license plate renewal, for an annual fee of $13, while a motorcyclist and moped riders could buy one for $7.

What are the fees?

However, since Jan. 1, 2024, the park passes for vehicles have risen by a dollar, and could be automatically charged to those renewing license plates unless they decline them per Governor Gretchen Whitmer’s newest budget proposal.

Under the Governor’s latest proposed budget, it is estimated that roughly $17 million would be generated by the Recreation Passport opt-out program.

DNR Parks and Recreation Chief Ron Olson explained that the fees play a large role in supporting the state parks.

“Michigan’s state park system is largely self-supporting, with the Recreation Passport playing a key role,” Olson said. “Approximately 97% of state parks funding is generated by user fees, including the Recreation Passport, and royalty revenues. Just 3% comes from Michigan’s General Fund tax dollars.”

Legislators object to the automated charge.

State Representative Ken Borton (R-Gaylord), shared his objection to the new automatic charge that residents will face.

MORE NEWS: More Than 50 Animals Rescued Out of Emmet County from Alleged Hoarding Situation

“If we transition the passport program from opt-in to opt-out we are effectively creating a tax on people who don’t pay attention,” he said in a statement. “We shouldn’t be forcing people to pay for a park pass they don’t even know they’re receiving and may never use.”

The minority vice-chair for the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Agriculture and Rural Development and Natural Resources also voiced his belief that the program is fine as is.

“The passport program as it exists now is fine,” he said in a statement. “People who frequent state parks can opt-in and receive a pass on their license plates, admitting them to state parks.”