The Michigan state House of Representatives yesterday voted unanimously to repeal its so-called driver responsibility fee program, an unpopular tax on traffic citations. State Representative Bettie C. Scott (D-Detroit) was the primary sponsor of legislation that will end most of the fees by January 1, 2012 and, before then, cut the amount motorists owe by half.
“Obviously we must do what it takes to keep our roads safe for all travelers, but driver responsibility fees place an onerous and unnecessary financial burden on too many Michigan drivers,” Scott said in a statement. “The Driver Responsibility Act is flawed legislation that has failed the test of time. It has unfairly penalized our hard-working residents during one of the worst financial crises we’ve ever seen.”
Since 2004, Michigan has used the program to impose a tax of $300 to $2000 on certain driving offenses, plus an annual tax of $100 to $500 a year for anyone with more than seven points on his license. A package of four separate bills would remove the point tax and fees for everything except driving while intoxicated, failure to stop at an accident, eluding a police officer, reckless driving or any offense causing death or serious bodily injury.
Between 2004 and 2009, the state has assessed about $800 million in fees, only $400 million of which was actually paid. The National Motorists Association strongly opposed the fee program, pointing out that the state has some of the worst speed traps in the country, generating fees by setting speed limits that do not match the flow of traffic. The Michigan District Judges Association and the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People have also strongly endorsed repeal of the fees.
“People are frustrated with the ridiculous amount of money charged for minor infractions and penalties,” said state Representative Eileen Kowall (R-White Lake), sponsor of another bill in the repeal package. “These bills will help decrease the financial burden on drivers who already are being punished with large fines and court costs.”
If passed by the state Senate and signed by the governor, the Michigan repeal will become law. In 2007, the state of Virginia introduced a similar speeding ticket tax, called an “abuser fee” bill, which generated a storm of negative publicity. The legislature had no choice but to repeal the program in 2008, offering a full refund to those who paid.
A copy of House Bill 4098, as passed by the House, is available in a 50k PDF file at the source link below.