By Keith Goble, Land Line state legislative editor
A bill halfway through the Michigan statehouse would repeal parts of an eight-year-old law that imposes extra fees on drivers for certain traffic offenses.
Since 2003, Michigan’s habitually bad drivers have faced fees of up to $1,000 a year to keep their driving privileges. The law is intended to crack down on repeat driving offenders and increase revenue for the state by adding fees above and beyond the normal fines imposed for traffic violations.
The Senate voted unanimously to advance a bill to the House that would partially repeal the driver responsibility fee program starting Oct. 1, 2011.
If approved, “bad driver” fees would end for such offenses as driving without insurance or a valid license, or accumulating seven or more points on their driving record. Fees for the worst-of-the-worst violations, such as drunken driving, fleeing police, and reckless driving, would continue to be collected.
Since the program’s passage nearly a decade ago nearly 2.5 million people have had their licenses suspended for nonpayment.
Some lawmakers have called the program unfair. They said the penalties are too harsh, especially for low-income motorists. Even supporters of the law said they recognize it has done more harm than good. However, the revenue the fee generates for the state has made it difficult for lawmakers to get rid of it.
According to a fiscal note on the bill, the state would lose about $31 million of the estimated $220 million in fees assessed each year. But the hit to the state would actually be far less. The state collects about 56 percent of the charged fees.
“This program was created as an alleged ‘quick and easy’ fix to the state’s budget problems, but it failed to generate the money promised,” Sen. Bruce Caswell, R-Hillsdale, said in a statement.
Caswell said his bill is the first step in outright eliminating the fee program.
The bill – SB166 – is awaiting consideration in the House Transportation Committee.
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