On October 1, new fees, fines and surcharges aimed at generating more revenue, at the expense of Michigan motorists, goes into effect. Most drivers don't realize the full extent of the penalties coming their way. Public Act 165 has instituted new "Driver Responsibility Fees" which amounts to raised fines and surcharges on traffic tickets. If you have seven points on your drivers license, you will be paying $100 each year for two years. And, you will be paying an additional $50 per point for every point above seven. If you're stopped and you can't present proof of insurance, you must pay a $300 fine, even if you later prove you do have insurance.
If you receive an Operating Under the Influence of Liquor (OUIL), not only do you have to pay your fine, a new $40 surtax, and license reinstatement fee, but you will also be getting a $1,000 bill each year for the next two years (courtesy of Governor Granholm and Senator Gilbert).
This additional money will go to local governments and police, county sheriffs, the State Police, the state General Fund and local fire departments. This sets a dangerous precedent, as the agencies that issue tickets will directly profit from them.
"Guaranteeing police a share of motorist fines will lead to further fine increases down the road," says Eric Skrum of the National Motorists Association. "It creates a vested interest effect: more police revenue equals more patrols, which equals more tickets, which equals more revenue. The state legislature and city governments are sure to put pressure on police agencies to issue more tickets."
There will be serious unintended consequences. More tickets will make more motorists subject to the points tax. As more drivers face annual fees of several hundred dollars to keep their licenses, the poorest will respond by not paying the fees. "The legislature rammed this through without investigating the impacts," says Skrum. The points tax was borrowed from New Jersey, but NMA reports that "In New Jersey, they call this program 'Debtor's Prison.' Poor drivers try driving without a license, incur an even larger surcharge when they get caught, and go so far in debt to the state they can never get a driver's license again. This prevents them from holding a job, and effectively takes them out of the economy." An increase in unlicensed, unregistered, and uninsured drivers is the probable outcome. The state cynically estimates that only a little over half of the points taxes will ever be paid; the rest will be owed by persons unable to pay and who will never be able to renew their licenses.
See below for a list of the fee increases and how much money will be extracted from motorists for state purposes.
Michigan Motorist Tax, Fine, and Fee Increases, 2003
Vehicle Fee Increases - Senate Bill 554, Public Act 152 of 2003
Make trailer plates permanent at roughly the former price of 5 to 7 years' registration
Increase all vehicle registrations by $3, unconstitutionally award $2.25 to State Police.
Add late registration-renewal fee of $10.
Raise vehicle title fees by $3.
Raise auto dealer-license fees from $10 to $75.
Raise used-parts dealer-license fees from $100 to $160.
Raise CDL fee from $20 to $25.
Raise CDL correction fee from $6 to $18.
Raise original chauffeur's license from $20 to $35.
Raise original driver's license from $12 to $25.
Raise license renewal fee from $12 to $18.
Add license-renewal late fee of $7.
Raise minor's restricted license from $5 to $25.
Raise fees for duplicate licenses by $6.
Total revenue increase: $70.1 million/year.
Dispositions: Michigan State Police $21.8 million/year
Secretary of State $18 million/year
Roads and transit $5.3 million/year
General Fund $25 million/year
After shifts of funds between the Secretary of State and the Michigan Transportation Fund under SB 539, road and transit funds are increased by approximately $24.9 million/year.
One-time advance from trailer registration fees (conversion to permanent registrations).
Revenue: $108 million in 2004.
Disposition: Roads and transit
Points Tax - Senate Bill 509, Public Act 165 of 2003
Attach tax to driver-license points, $100 for the seventh point and $50 each for additional points. Notes: points remain on license for two years. Points existing on Sept. 30, 2003 are not taxable.
Attach mandatory fines of $150 to $1,000 for certain traffic violations (not subject to points tax), payable as surtaxes on driver's-license fees in EACH of TWO years following conviction.
Official revenue estimate: Approx. $65 to 75 million/year realized on billings of $124.7 million (shrinkage is due to drivers refusing to pay and continuing to drive with suspended licenses, based on rates from New Jersey). Note: House Fiscal Agency estimates and all published media reports on P.A. 165 contain the same error: the mandatory fines are described as being imposed once only, and not in each of TWO years, so these revenue estimates are low.
Disposition: First $65 million/year to the General Fund, additional amounts for local fire departments in cities having state-owned buildings.
SB 436 & 439, HB 4736 P.A's. 73 & 97 of 2003 - Court-finance Package
Increase conviction surtax from $25 to $40 on approximately 500,000 citations/year.
Revenue increase: $7.5 million/year
Disposition: Court operations.
HB 4333, P.A. 34 of 2003 - Handicapped Parking Spaces
Raise fine for violation of handicapped parking spaces from $50 to $150.
TOTAL MOTORIST TAX INCREASE: $147.6 million/year
AMOUNTS FOR ROADS AND TRANSIT: $132.9 million in Fiscal 2004
Approximately $24.9 million/year after 2004