When Tickets Become Taxes

Click for audio When Tickets Become Taxes

Paying a fine for speeding is one thing, but paying fees on top of the fine to support various and sundry government projects is quite another. In many municipalities, tickets are starting to look a lot like taxes.

Take the California driver socked with a $500 ticket for going more than 100 miles per hour. He may have deserved an expensive ticket. But did he deserve to pay the additional $850 in fines that went to pay for eight separate government programs, including fish and game preservation?

What does speeding have to do with fish and game preservation?

Michigan may not be far behind. Courts in Hamtramck and St. Clair Shores attach extra costs to traffic tickets to pay for new court buildings. Allen Park has large fines for overweight trucks not just to repair pavement damage, but also for extra revenue. State law directs traffic fine money to county libraries.

As voters resist higher taxes, it’s tempting for politicians to raise fines. Fortunately, the Michigan Constitution’s Headlee amendment limits government revenues from all sources, including fines. The goal of traffic law should be public safety, not revenue.

For the Mackinac Center, this is Catherine Martin.