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6/13/2008
Michigan Moves to Eliminate Speeding Ticket Tax
The Michigan state House of Representatives takes the first step toward repealing abuser fees.

Philip LaJoy
The Michigan House Transportation Committee voted unanimously yesterday to eliminate the state's driver responsibility fees. State Representative Bettie Cook Scott (D-Detroit) first introduced a bill that would have reduced some of the yearly fees imposed on drivers convicted of various offenses. State Representative Philip LaJoy (R-Canton Township) agreed with Scott's direction, but thought her measure did not go far enough. He convinced the committee to modify the language so that it eliminated the fees in their entirety, especially the annual tax imposed on motorists with points on their license. After paying a speeding ticket, for example, a motorist can face a second annual penalty of $100 per year or more.

"These heavy-handed judgments are the same as double jeopardy on Michigan drivers," LaJoy said in a statement. "They are excessive fees that have not had an impact on fixing Michigan's roads or public safety."

Virginia imposed its own speeding ticket tax in July 2007, but voter outrage forced lawmakers in March not only to cancel the program, but refund every dollar it had collected. The success of Virginia's repeal may help boost the likelihood that LaJoy's measure will make it through the full House and Senate, which must approve the measure for it to take effect. If this happens, those who owe existing fees would only need to pay back one-half of the amount owed in a "partial amnesty."

One of the unintended consequences of Michigan's driver responsibility program has been the creation of unlicensed drivers. Under a typical scenario, Michigan's Secretary of State will suspend a driver's license if a single fee or tax is not paid, even if the bill had been mailed to the wrong address. When this happens, a motorist may not even know that he is driving under a suspended license. Then, if stopped, he faces a mandatory $1000 ticket tax on top of a $150 license reinstatement fee.

"This legislation was designed to fatten state coffers," LaJoy said. "The legislature is doing the right thing by repealing the fees for drivers in the future, and it is only fair to do everything we can to those who have already fallen victim to these fees."

The bill's greatest hurdle may be Governor Jennifer Granholm (D), who thus far has resisted efforts to repeal the fees that have generated $383 million since 2004. New Jersey, New York and Texas also have driver responsibility taxes.



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