California Could Spend $220M to Upgrade Driver’s Licenses

SACRAMENTO (AP) — With a deadline looming, California is planning to spend more than $220 million to bring driver's licenses and state identification cards up to federal standards.

Gov. Jerry Brown's revised budget proposal includes money to help process an expected flood of applications for cards that comply with the U.S. Real ID Act.

The act was enacted in 2005 to make IDs more secure in the wake of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks. The original deadline was 2008, but it repeatedly was extended because states had trouble complying.

California and about 20 other states were granted extensions. But the stakes have risen because the Trump administration has set a deadline of Oct. 1, 2020. After that, air travelers won't be able to use non-complaint cards as proof of identification at airport security checkpoints.

The new cards, which carry special markings, will be available in California as of next Jan. 2. But people must apply for them in person at Department of Motor Vehicle offices — not online or by mail.

Judging by the experiences of other states, about 20 million people could apply, the Sacramento Bee reported.

"When you're dealing with the number of driver's licenses we have in California, by definition the numbers are going to be large," said H.D. Palmer, a spokesman for the state Department of Finance.

Applicants must provide more documentation than currently needed, including a birth certificate or other proof of birth and more proof that they are legal California residents and have a Social Security number.

A California law that took effect two years ago allows people in the country illegally to obtain licenses, but they cannot be used to board airplanes or enter federal facilities.

Brown's budget would provide $220.6 million to hire additional workers each year for six years, in hopes that a maximum of 715 workers will be hired by the 2019/20 fiscal year. It would also fund a marketing campaign about the cards and pay for overtime and other costs of keeping more DMV offices open on Saturdays to meet the demand.

DMV officials said they have been working on Real ID-compliant cards for years. "The DMV has been implementing practices that make our cards some of the best-protected in the country," spokeswoman Jessica Gonzalez said.