Most people, except drivers who have been hit by the “tax,” probably aren’t even aware of the fees.
Our state legislators, struggling to avoid budget cuts due to the recession in 2003, concocted the scheme: The “bad driver tax” is imposed for certain traffic violations and is hated by judges, drivers and legislators.
In 2011, the Legislature eliminated the fees for drivers found guilty of driving without a license or without insurance. But it’s still in place for people with multiple points on their license.
It has raised between $99 million and $115 million a year, mostly for the state’s general fund.
Kentwood District Judge William Kelly recently said: “The driver responsibility fee is unfair in many ways. It’s a tax on the poorest people in our state, and it’s a second punishment for the same offense. It’s costly to collect and has nothing to do with traffic safety.”
The fees snowball quickly. Court-appointed attorneys report many drivers have racked up $8,000 to $10,000 in driver responsibility fees for relatively minor offenses.
It has developed into a “class tax” because poor people are unable to pay them and lose their licenses, while wealthier drivers are able to pay it and stay behind the wheel. Reportedly, thousands of mostly low-income individuals have lost their licenses due to the inability to pay these penalties.
House Bill 5414 addresses these fees and passed recently in the House, 108-0. The bill would cut these additional fees in half for offenses committed after Sept. 30, 2014, and abolish them as of Oct. 1, 2017.
We say the changes can’t come soon enough.
Our Views reflects the majority opinion of the members of the Grand Haven Tribune editorial board: Kevin Hook, Cheryl Welch, Matt DeYoung, Alex Doty and Fred VandenBrand. What do you think? E-mail us a letter to the editor to email@example.com or log-in to our website and leave a comment below.