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Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Balancing Budgets on Drivers' Backs

"A Constitution is not the act of a Government, but of a people constituting a government, and a government without a constitution is a power without right." — Thomas Paine

This morning I saw a report on Fox and Friends that boiled my blood. The report exposed what states and municipalities are doing to raise money to balance their bloated budgets with openly raising taxes — something they could not get away with in today’s economic climate. They are raising fees of all types including the fines drivers will pay for traffic violations.

Fox News reports; “Cities and states across the country are broke. ButTraffic Ticket Fox News instead of raising taxes, lawmakers are raising traffic fines. "This business of using fines and traffic fees as revenue sources is just flat wrong," said Lew Uhler with the National Tax Limitation Committee. "This is simply a tax by another name."

“Nowhere is that more obvious than Los Angeles, where the city collects $1.5 million a year at a single intersection in the San Fernando Valley from drivers running a red light. Cost per ticket is $476.”

"It's almost $500 and I have three kids right now," said Jesus Altamirano, standing outside a Los Angeles municipal courtroom where he is fighting a red light violation. "It's just hard the way they want to get you with these tickets."

“But it's not just California. In a memo obtained by the Boston Herald, local police chief Ken Coye instructs his officers in the suburb of Malden to write at least one traffic or parking ticket per shift.”

"We need to increase enforcement in areas that create revenue," says the Coye memo. "Write ‘ONE TAG A DAY.’"

Lawmakers around the country seem to listening.

  • Parking in a fire lane in Pensacola, Fla., will cost you $100, up from $10.
  • Georgia recently added a $200 surcharge for anyone driving more than 85 miles per hour.
  • Colorado increased fines for speeding from $50 to $135.
  • Portland, Ore., increased fines for parking in a handicapped spot from $190 to $450.
  • Parking fines in Boston doubled to $40.
  • Speeding in Florida just 10 miles over the legal limit will cost you $196, up from $154.

"We cannot afford to pay tickets, especially when we don't feel guilty for what we are being fined for," said Luis Rivera, a California contractor. Rivera was slapped with a $276 fine for not closing the tailgate on his pickup truck.

California's State Senate President Darrell Steinberg admitted lawmakers raised traffic fines to raise revenue - not for traffic safety or to change driver behavior. It's "one of the patches that we've relied on to avoid deeper cuts" to state programs, he said.

But closing a $28 billion dollar deficit isn't easy. Consider these Golden State fines:

  • Driving one to 15 miles over speed limit is $215. Compare that to $50 in Idaho and Washington State.
  • Run a stop sign: $236
  • No seat belt: $148. In Louisiana, the same infraction is $25.
  • Broken headlight: $100
  • Park in a disabled spot: $1,043. A second offense is $2,000.
  • Pass a school bus with flashing red lights in San Francisco: $754

"We ought not go to bankruptcy court as a result of simple infractions of driving laws," complained Uhler, who believes collections go down when fines get too high because motorists simply can't pay or refuse to because "punishment doesn't fit the crime."

Petros Abraham agrees. He got cited at 2 a.m. one night for making a right hand turn at a red light when he failed to stop for the required 3 seconds.

"I don't think it is fair," said Abraham. "They're just dumping all of their problems back onto the people, back onto the taxpayer."

This is absolutely obscene, balancing a budget on the back of drivers with increasing traffic fines and license fees. First it was to raise the taxes on liquor, and that was okay for people who don’t drink. Then it was to raise taxes on tobacco products and that was okay for people who don’t smoke — except the little businessman who owns the smoke shop in the coroner. The non-smokers, non-drinkers and liberals didn’t mind these taxes, but there are millions of left-wing drivers and I wonder how they will react to the actions of the statist politicians who are in control of our State and city governments.

Traffic fines, along with the availability of traffic school are supposed to promote traffic safety and the fines are just a bit of a punishment for violating laws that are intended to promote that safety. Fines beyond that are purely money raising devices to finance bloated, out of control spending — something our statist politicians just can’t stop doing.

Another consequence of these obscene fines is that the public will grow distrustful of the laws and those who enforce them. A $1,043 fine for parking in a disabled parking stall is a bit much. I can understand several hundred dollars for such an offense is in line as it is tough for a disabled person to walk across a parking lot with a walker or cane. But, $1,043 is way over the top. I don’t park in handicap parking places as I know what it means to be disabled. My dad needed these stalls and a good friend mine with MS deserves the convenience.

For the city to gain $1.5 million in revenue from one red light camera is another example of generating “non-tax” revenue on the backs of motorists. How can we respect laws that are made purely to generate revenue for the people who can’t control their spending or those who enforce them?

This is just another way for statists to pick our pockets with taking any heat for raising taxes. After all that might get them unelected.

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