Michigan bills seek revenue through unpaid tickets, general property tax

| 8/24/2009

The pursuit of money for budgets is a major issue for states. But the search for funding doesn’t end there. Local governments also are getting creative in an effort to resolve funding issues.

Trying to combat the cash crunch, two bills under consideration at the Michigan statehouse would benefit city and county governments trying to fill budget gaps.

Intended to boost road funding options for local governments, one bill would repeal a ban on counties using general property tax revenue for road construction and maintenance. The bill – HB5141 – would allow counties with a surplus of money in their general fund to use a portion of the revenue for roadwork.

It is in the House Transportation Committee.

Another bill in the committee addresses unpaid parking tickets. Rep. Roy Schmidt, R-Grand Rapids, is hopeful they are the key to getting some much-needed money for cities. His bill – HB4726 – would allow the state to block driver’s license renewals for people who accumulate three or more unpaid parking tickets.

Michigan law now requires six or more unpaid parking tickets from the same community before a hold can be put on a motorist’s driver’s license renewal. Those people found in violation can get their licenses renewed only after paying the overdue fines and a $45 clearance fee.

Supporters say that communities stand to receive a shot in the arm for transportation funding if the bill goes through. In Detroit alone, the city has $30 million in parking tickets that are outstanding, The Detroit News reported.

Others say the change is good for motorists, too, because it would force them to pay sooner rather than later when larger parking fines and late fees add up.

Critics are concerned about the likelihood of more motorists driving without valid driver’s license.

That is a concern shared by owner-operator and OOIDA Life Member Leo Wilkins of St. Charles, MI.

“People just don’t have the money. They will continue to drive but they aren’t going to have insurance because they can’t pay their tickets to get their license renewed,” Wilkins told Land Line.

What should come as no surprise to professional drivers, Wilkins said, is that the push by local governments to generate revenue isn’t limited to the pursuit of legislation at the statehouse. Trucks also are targeted out on the roadways.

“The county DOT has been out quite forceful recently targeting trucks. They’re trying to generate revenue. There’s no doubt about it,” Wilkins said. “All the municipalities are broke. The state’s broke. The only thing I can tell people is if they are in Michigan make sure they have their i’s dotted and their t’s crossed.”

To view other legislative activities of interest for Michigan in 2009, click here.

– By Keith Goble, state legislative editor

Editor’s Note: Please share your thoughts with us about the legislation included in this story. Comments may be sent to statelegislativedesk@ooida.com.