Millions For Local Earmarks, But Not A Cent To Right An Injustice?

Legislature uses dodgy earmark device to sidestep constitutional restriction on special dealing

For more than a decade, the state of Michigan has imposed a tax, known as “driver responsibility fees,” on people who have committed minor violations of motor vehicle laws. The fees are being gradually phased out, but about 300,000 citizens owe more than $634 million, much of which is uncollectable. Many drivers have lost their licenses as a result, which prevents them from holding a job and earning money to pay the fees — not to mention support themselves and their families.

The Legislature is seeking to end those fees more quickly and grant amnesty to people who owe them, which may cost the state about $30 million annually. According to Crain’s Detroit Business, the Michigan Department of Treasury “opposes full-scale repeal of driver responsibility fees.” One reason is that its officials are “concerned about the estimated $30 million in lost revenue for the current fiscal year.”

ForTheRecord says: The current state budget provides $38 million in earmarks for local projects. The money is written into the budget in a way that delivers legislators the funding they want for their municipalities without specifically naming names, which would run afoul of the Michigan Constitution. There is no record of Treasury officials speaking out against that funding.

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