By Tracy Samilton of Michigan Radio
District judges are urging Governor Snyder to support bills that would eliminate a tax called the Driver Responsibility Fee. The bills would also forgive money owed from past assessments of the fee.
More than 300,000 people owe the state large sums because of the DRF.
The fees were added to some kinds of tickets to plug a hole in the state budget in 2003. But many people can’t afford to pay the DRF, which can be as high as $1,000 per year for two years.
Failing to pay the fee results in the loss of a driver’s license. Some people lose their jobs – some people continue to drive, without a license, in order to keep their jobs.
If caught driving without a license, they get slapped with another driver responsibility fee. In some cases, people are tens of thousands of dollars in debt because of multiple DRFs.
Thomas Boyd is President of the Michigan District Judges Association. He says the fee has no relationship to the severity of the driving offense, and it’s ruining people’s lives.
“This isn’t a situation where I’d have to look hard to find someone who’s devastated by the effect of the drivers responsibility fee,” says Boyd, a district judge in Ingham County. “Every district court judge sees it, every day.”
Former Senate Majority leader Ken Sikkema, who was an architect of the fee, says in retrospect, the fee is onerous and counterproductive (Sikkema made the comments on Michigan Radio’s Stateside.)
Ironically, Governor Snyder has said he has concerns about the bills, because of the effect they would have on the state budget.