Michigan House panel OKs bill seeking revenue through unpaid tickets

| Monday, October 12, 2009

It’s no revelation that the pursuit of money for budgets is a major issue for states. It’s also no shock that the search for funding doesn’t end there. Local governments also are getting creative in an effort to resolve their own 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.

The House Transportation Committee has approved a bill that would tap unpaid parking tickets to provide a boost for local governments. Rep. Roy Schmidt, D-Grand Rapids, is hopeful the tickets 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 licenses.

Owner-operator and OOIDA Life Member Leo Wilkins of St. Charles, MI, has the same concern.

“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 recently 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 a piece of legislation. 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.”

Schmidt’s bill has advanced to the House floor for further consideration. If approved there, it would move to the Senate.

Another bill, which is also intended to boost road funding options for local governments, 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.

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.

 

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