Tuesday, September 1, 2015

Traffic Tickets Have Become a Tax-Hack Pile-On

Michigan state flag

People with absolutely no friends in your state’s capital include terrorists, communists, smokers, and those cited for a driving offense. No politician with reelection on his or her mind would lift a finger to help out speeders and stoplight runners. Hey, they broke the law, they deserve whatever we give them, right? This political truth proved itself over and over again in the last decade as states rushed to patch holes in annual budgets by dumping more and more extraneous fees onto traffic tickets. As with a cigarette tax, a traffic-ticket surcharge generates little opposition from the assembled representatives, none of whom wants to be seen as representing the interests of lawbreakers. In Pennsylvania, fees have been tacked onto tickets for state police training, emergency medical services, the state’s judicial computer system, a fund to compensate people injured by medical negligence, and a program to provide legal services for the indigent. A $57 fine thus lands on your wallet as a $158.50 pile of random taxation. It’s worse in California, where a typical $100 fine pencils out to $490. Over the past 50 years, the State Assembly in Sacramento has run riot with traffic levies, the Los Angeles Times reporting that 80 percent of a traffic ticket’s bottom line has nothing to do with the actual offense. Among the add-ons: a fee to aid people with traumatic brain injuries, a fund to help victims of violent crimes, and a toll for the protection of state wildlife. Texas and Michigan have enacted “driver responsibility” programs that impose recurring fees above and beyond the initial fines for repeat offenders. In the Great Lakes State, drivers who amass seven points in two years are assessed a $100 fee each year and an extra $50 for any points accumulated above that. If you can’t provide proof of insurance by your court date, it’s another $400 in fees over two years. READ MORE ››

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