Thursday, May 2, 2013

Bill would impose moratorium on driver surcharges in Texas

Anyone who has dealt with the world of low-level traffic offenses knows the consequences of the Texas Driver Responsibility Program. The DRP imposed surcharges on driver license renewals for certain traffic offenses and suspended legal driving privileges for those who didn't make the payments.

Then, when those same drivers picked up new moving violations their licenses were suspended (again) and more surcharges were imposed. The entire program became a downward spiral that left many motorists with no way to ever regain their legal driving privileges.

Now it appears that relief might be on the way in the form of HB104 - a proposed bill that would place a two-year moratorium on the imposition and collection of surcharges under the DRP.

The DRP was created in 2003 partially as a funding mechanism for trauma centers in the state. The promise was that folks who drove without insurance or on suspended licenses would cough up some money that the state would collect and distribute (hmm, sounds like a tax to me). Over the years, however, the program has not generated the funds lawmakers had expected.

Being that most folks ticketed for driving without insurance or on suspended licenses tend to be on the poorer end of the spectrum, the state has only collected about 40% of the surcharges levied on motorists. So, not only did the program not generate the amount of revenue expected - it couldn't even collect half the surcharges levied.

The bill would allow the DPS to begin imposing and collecting surcharges after September 1, 2013 provided the state had not yet found a mechanism to fund trauma centers at the level they are currently funded. Whether this will encourage lawmakers to come up with a new funding mechanism or just sit on the hands has yet to be determined.

For way too long the state legislature (and governor) have resisted devising equitable mechanisms to fund this state. The sales tax is regressive. The lottery is a scam directed at the poor. The DRP is yet another attempt to impose higher taxes on the poor while reducing the tax burden on the wealthy.

Imposing a moratorium on the DRP rather than abolishing the whole thing may be a baby step - but at least it's a step in the right direction.


Anonymous said...

I got my license suspended in 2004 for racing. In 2007 I moved to New Mexico and got 3 DWIs since then. Bad, I know. I recently moved back to Texas and trying to get my license back, I find out I owe almost $15,000 in surcharges and would have to pay almost $1,000 a month to keep it valid until it's paid off. I never possessed a Texas license; it was taken from me in 2004. All my DWIs were in New Mexico. I already did jail time, probation, fines, and community service in New Mexico. None of my crimes caused damage or injury to anyone else. Not that it makes it better, but I've done my time and I thought it was over. Now I have to deal with this? I hope it gets thrown out quick. I have been wanting to get my license since '04!

sessin3058@google,com said...

My Grandson has 3 children. He works for minimum wage. He.has t walk to work. He will never be able to pay the surcharges. He will never have a drivers license. So how does this program help? He is condemned to be on food stamps forever. All because of losing his license. This is a debtors tax. It is disgusting and immoral.

Anonymous said...

The people imposing these taxes are trash from Rick Perry on down. will pray for the death of this scum.

Anonymous said...

These surcharges are definitely oppressive to the poor and working class. Get rid of them or make them prorated based on income. My fines and surcharges for expired license is 2% of my annual salary. That would be $20,000 for a millionaire. I bet that will never happen.

Anonymous said...

Never had a DWI . Got a ticket for expired license . No big deal right ? paid the fine . Judge never said anything about a surcharge . Never heard of a surcharge . Got pulled over for a tail light . Ran my license and they told me it was suspended . Told him it couldn't be just renewed it not long before . They took me to jail . Didn't understand why . As soon as I bonded out THE NEXT DAY I got on the phone . They said I had a unpaid surcharge . It seems like it has mushroomed and I have paid and paid . I don't know how this has gotten the way it has but it has went on for years . I have always kept insurance but it gets hard to keep a drivers license .

Anonymous said...

Where did you find out you had a unpaid surcharge hell in sure many people coming on this blog have some unpaid is it DPS?