Editorials

Driver Fees: A cowardly way to raise taxes

DRIVER FEES

It’s a cowardly way to raise taxes

It takes a brave—and some would say foolish—politician to raise taxes these days. So what if there’s not enough revenue to cover costs? It doesn’t matter if programs can’t be funded. Taxes will not be raised or else the next election will not be won.

The sly, cowardly way out was taken over the summer as a Republican-introduced plan to create an array of new driving-related fees gained enough support from both sides of the aisle and the Democratic governor to become law.

Forget to place your new proof of insurance card in your vehicle? That will cost you $150 this year and another $150 next year, in addition to the fine already in place for the oversight. Other infractions lead to much greater fees, such as $500 for two consecutive years for reckless driving and $1,000 for two years for drunk driving.

We have no sympathy for drunk drivers, for those who flee the scene of an accident, for reckless drivers and those who commit other contemptible crimes, but there are already fines and in some cases jail sentences in place for these infractions. The new set of fees is nothing more than a hidden tax increase, one that often hits those who are least able to pay.

Now there’s an additional financial burden placed upon families, and the suffering spreads beyond the driver at fault to include other family members.

When the driver is unable to pay a $1,000 or $2,000 fee, the driver’s license is forfeited. Then, in desperation, the driver takes to the road without a license. That leads to additional fees in addition to fines, and the cycle only worsens—all of this because of a gigantic slump in the economy.

Politicians in Lansing are expecting big gains from what they’re calling driver responsibility fees. They’ll place the first $65 million into the general fund, then $3 million into a fire protection fund, then back to the general fund.

It seems like a lousy way to make money when times are tough already. Legislators need to do better in finding ways to fill their empty coffers.


    - DGG, Oct. 22, 2003