New Math: The Albo/Rust Method

Del. Dave Albo (R-Fairfax) and Tom Rust (R-Herndon), the sponsors of the traffic abuser bill have repeatedly told us that the high add-on traffic abuser penalties are about safety.

They also assured us repeatedly that “no one can get an Abuser Fee for a traffic ticket” (this is a direct quote from a recent letter these two sent to their constituents).

Albo has gone even further. In a recent interview on CNN he said that you couldn’t get a $3,000 add-on penalty unless you killed someone in a traffic accident. In the same letter to their constituents, Albo and Rust state that “since 1997, 9,600 people have died in traffic collisions in Virginia.”

At the same time, they claim that “the abuser fee raises $65 million per year,” a critical funding source of the 2007 Transportation Act, which will be used to help pay for transportation projects in our area.

So given these often repeated “facts”—which have also been parroted by the likes of Gov. Tim Kaine (D), Speaker Bill Howell (R-Fredericksburg) and Majority Leader Morgan Griffith (R-Roanoke)—let’s us do a little math using the Albo/Rust method.

For argument’s sake, let us assume that every person killed was not the bad driver causing the accident, but universally the innocent victim. Let’s also assume that all of the drivers who caused the accidents lived long enough to pay the add-on penalty. The above assumptions are obviously unrealistic, but stay with me for a moment in order to give the maximum benefit of doubt to the Albo/Rust argument.

Following these assumptions, had HR3202 been in place over the past 10 years, it could have raised $28.8 million or on average slightly less than $3 million per year. This is based on a $3000 fine per death—not per accident!

Yet, the Albo/Rust duo tells us that this bill will raise $65 million per year. In other words, these $3000 add-on penalties will account for less than 5% of the projected revenue.

To put it another way, more than 95% of the traffic abuser revenues will come from smaller fines. If most of these traffic infractions fall under the $1,050 level, one can only assume that they are going to have to collect a lot more abuser penalties from smaller traffic violations to make up the $62 million shortfall.

So when Albo and Rust—and the echoing chorus of mindless legislators—tell you that the add-on penalties only apply to the worse of the worst, don’t believe them one minute. On the contrary, this bill was designed to extract money from generally law abiding citizens who are caught in a momentary lapse committing a traffic infraction.

If you have any doubts about this, check out the recent report in the Washington Times, where a Navy reservist with a clean driving record going to his monthly training drill was cited for reckless driving while driving 20 MPH over the speed limit on I-395 on a Sunday morning. He now faces a $1,050 add-on penalty for the reckless driving charge, which he is contesting on constitutional grounds under the equal protection clause of the 14th amendment, since these penalties only apply to Virginians and exclude out-of-state drivers.

So don’t buy into their propaganda folks! If Joseph Goebbels were still alive, our legislators could teach him a trick or two…

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11 responses to “New Math: The Albo/Rust Method”

  1. Anonymous Avatar


    If ever there were was a brown shirt loose in this great Commonwealth it is that rag-tag band of morons called the Club for Growth.

    I am glad to see you defend someone driving 20 miles over the speed limit. But gee, you forgot to mention a few facts, Phil.

    Like, first the fees will not apply unless he is convicted. Given the facts that have been presented it will be VERY UNLIKELY that he will be convicted of reckless driving. There has to be contributing factors for the court to find reckless on a just 20 miles over the speed limit. You also forgot to mention that under current law these contributing factors to reckless driving can also result in a year in jail.

    It is interesting in your diatribe against the fees you fail to mention the other case that is being contested on constitutional grounds. But no, you don’t want to talk about that because the defendant has been arrested five times (FIVE TIMES) on driving without a license. Who knows, maybe he is Club for Growth board member?

    I am not a great fan of the fees, but I am more disgusted by the lies and misstatements by the likes of people like you who try to twist the truth fit their political agenda.


  2. Phil Rodokanakis Avatar
    Phil Rodokanakis

    I love your holier than thou attitude!

    If you can find anyone who’s going to believe that you have never driven 20 MPH over the speed limit, then maybe you can also try to sell them a used bridge.

    And while you’re spewing hatred for hatred’s sake—even though you basically agree with me about the abuser fees—you disregard the fact that no one should have to hire an attorney to represent them on a simple traffic violation or to have to throw himself at the mercy of the court in the hope of having their charge reduced to a lesser offense.

    I’m glad to see that you’re not bothered by the lies and propaganda spewed out by the Albo/Rust choir. Why don’t prove your convictions and send them a big donation since you’re such a big fan of their political agenda—an agenda which means is to criminalize and tax everything that moves in this State.

  3. Anonymous Avatar

    You are wrong. Going 20mph.or more over the speed limit in Va. is PER SE
    reckless driving and will subject the convicted driver to the fee. It’s in the Va. Code. Go look it up.

    This whole scheme is so our gutless representatives can have plausible deniability that they raised taxes. A 5 cent gas (user-tax) would solve all of Albo’s bullpoopoo. In my opinion, Albo is a sorry excuse for a leader.

  4. Phil Rodokanakis Avatar
    Phil Rodokanakis

    Another example from today’s Washington Post of who is really being hit with the traffic abuser fees.

    In this case, a pregnant woman–with a clean driving record–driving herself to the hospital thinking that she had gone in labor.

    Another example of what Albo/Rust define the worse of the worst drivers!

    It also makes you wonder what the heck was going through the mind of the policeman that cited her, but that’s another story.

    It’s plain clear folks: Albo/Rust–and every other legislator that has supported this bill–must go before they get a chance to criminalize everything that moves in this state….

  5. Groveton Avatar


    Why do you say the Navy reservist who was clocked driving 75 mph on I-395 near the Pentagon has a “clean driving record”? I thought both he and his lawyers admitted he had been issues (and paid) a ticket for speeding within the last 12 months in Annandale.

    Anon 9:45 – You should read the WaPo article. Here is an excerpt:

    “Kathryn Bogush, 37, of Centreville caught a break in her case from a judge who amended her charge because she has a good driving record.

    “Your [offense is] after that magic date of July 1,” Judge Lisa A. Mayne said to Bogush, who was facing a reckless driving charge for going 80 mph in a 55 mph zone. “On the other hand, you have a plus-five driving record. I will take that into account.”

    Minutes later, a smiling Bogush was headed to the cashier after her charge was lowered to simple speeding, thereby avoiding the civil fee. “I was thankful she changed it,” Bogush said.”.

    It seems for the facts in this case that your contention is just plain wrong.

    I personally think that the Commonwealth needs to raise more money. I believe the somewhat dire predictions for recession in the United States and deficits in Virginia. These “abuser fees” are taxes. Perhaps Mssrs. Rust and Albo would do well to admit that. I say, “So What?”. The state needs the money and it’s charging bad drivers extra as a measure used to get the money. “So What?”. Maybe it will get people to drive better. It probably will although the evidence is still being collected. “So What?”.

    Mr. Rodokanakis – If the state doesn’t get the money through “abuser fees” what mechanism do you prefer? If you want spending cuts instead of more revenue – what specific programs would you cut?

    Finally, I’ll repeat two points I have consistently made. First, these fees are no different than the “congestion fees” supported by so many on this board. In fact, beacuse they penalize people who have broken the law – they are (in my opinion) morally preferable. Will “congestion fees” really reduce congestion – nobody knows. Probably so, but nobody really knows. Will “abuser fees” reduce traffic death and injury? Nobody knows. Probably but nobody knows. Will both raise money needed by the state? Yes. Are both regressive? Yes. Can people avoid both through either changes in behavior or using public transit? Yes. Do politicians lie about both calling them fees instead of taxes? Yes.

    So, why do people like Mr. Bacon so love “congestiion fees” and so hate “abuser fees”?

    It’s simple. “Abuser fees” apply to every resident in the state of Virginia. “Congestion Fees” will onnly apply to people in Northern Virginia and Tidewater (maybe the Richmond suburbs – maybe).

    Therefore, “congestion fees” are another method used to soak the areas perceived as being rich to the advantage of areas perceived as being poor. Of course, there are plenty of poor people in NOrthern Virginia – there are still trailer parks just off Rt. 1 in Fairfax County south of the beltway. And thhere are plenty of multi-millionaires (billionaires?)in Albemerle County.

    However, in a Hilary Clinton – like theory, “abuser fees” are bad and “congestion fees” are good.

    Mr. Rodokanakis railes against Mssrs. Rust and Albo for saying one thing (abuser fees are about safety) while knowing another (they are a way of raising money with explicitly being called taxes). Where is Mr. Rodokanakis’ ire at Mr. Bacon who says “congestiion fees” are not taxes and a re designed to reduce congestion when he really knows thay are yet another scheme to futher soak Northern Virginia and Tidewater to pay for the absymal failures of economic development elsewhere in the state?

  6. Jim Bacon Avatar
    Jim Bacon

    Groveton, I prefer congestion fees because they are the most economically efficient means yet devised to allocate scarce roadway capacity. The chief beneficiary of congestion fees in Northern Virginia will be Northern Virginians.

    In the Bacon schema, the revenues from congestion fees (after paying off the cost of administering them) would be plowed back into the congestion corridors and cordons from where they came. If Northern Virginians paid a pile of money in congestion fees, they’d get almost all of it back — to pay for congestion mitigation projects in the same corridor or cordon. You can’t say that about tax dollars routed through Richmond and VDOT.

    Will congestion fees reduce congestion? Let’s try a demonstration project and see. I’m willing to experiment before implementing variable pricing wholesale.

    (For the record, we Richmonders are no stranger to tolls — we’ve had more than our fair share. If you’ve ever driven on the Downtown Expressway or Powhite Parkway, you’d know. I wish they would implement variable-priced tolls here, by the way. I’m willing to “eat my own dogfood,” as they say.)

  7. Groveton Avatar


    You have no idea whether congestion fees are economically efficient. If Northern Virginia congestion fees result in may people and businesses moving to Maryland they won’t seem so clever.

    However, you have convinced me they are worth a try. So long as there is also a state-wide gas tax increase or miles driven charge to let motorists in non-congested areas pay for the building and maintenance of roads in these non – congested areas.

    I just cannot understand your emotional hate for abuser fees. To paraphrase your post – Will abuser fees reduce bad driving? Let’s try a demonstration and see.

    Isn’t that what we’re doing?

    Finally, it seesm to me that the abuser fees are a whole lot easier to repeal than congestion tolls. The tolls require new infrastructure (the tolling system), perhapr require contracts with private companies to buy the roads from the state and will generate funds dedicated to long running construction projects.

    As to whether the chief beneficiary of congestion fees will be Northern Virginia – I wish I coule believe that. The sales tax hike was supposed to benefit education in the state (which, in turn, would have improved SOLs and reduced the SOL subsidy – therefore, benefitting Northern Virginia). Instead, many localities in Southern Virginia simply used it as a reason to lower their own real estate tax rates and continue to plead poverty regarding education.

    I really don’t trust the General Assembly nor do I trust the whole Dillon’s Rule construct of the Commonwealth of Virginia. However, I am willing to try one more big leap of faith. And my confidence is increased by the abuser fee law which applies to everybody in the state and not just those of us living in Northern Virginia and Tidewater.

    So, tell me again, why are the abuser fees so wrong given your beliefs in congestion tolling?

  8. Anonymous Avatar

    “If Northern Virginians paid a pile of money in congestion fees, they’d get almost all of it back — to pay for congestion mitigation projects in the same corridor or cordon. You can’t say that about tax dollars routed through Richmond and VDOT.”

    Except that, as Winston and others have pointed out, such projects are hugely expensive, and the land is just not available.

    Congestion fees are not going to ease congestion for anyone except those paying the fees. That group will be so small, compared to the scope of work that needs to be done, that there will never be enough money to plow anything significant back into the corridor.

    Everyone other than those that pay to get congestion relief will get none, and to suggest otherwise is fraudulent.

    As far as getting almost all of it back, I wouldn’t bet on them getting even 50%. Even if it turns out to be 20%, that would be huge.


  9. Groveton Avatar


    Can you imagine the hue and cry that will result when one of I-66’s lanes is converted to a HOT lane and it costs something like $9.50 each way to take I-66 to / from work? Or when it costs $17.50 each way to take I-95 from south-to-north each morning and north to south each night?

    It will make this “abuser fee scandal” look like a tempest in a tea kettle.

    Teachers, firemen, nurses, government workers – all will say they are getting one less lane to use and they can’t afford the HOT lane.

    Meanwhile, the contract with the private companies will have been signed and the politicos in Richmond will give the “GA salute” (shrugging of shoulders) and say there’s nothing they can do about it now.

    The HOT lanes will last 6 months at the most. Then, it will be the same toll for everyone. Everyone will pay something like $2.50 to go us I-95 and $2.50 to come back. A very few will be able to convince their employers to let them telecommute or change their job hours to avoid the peak tolls. Most will just pay the extra $5.00 per day and be $5.00 per day less wealthy. Of course, the less money you make the more the $5.00 per day will hurt.

    Congestion will be reduced a little bit for a little while. Soon though the same forces that have kept congestion growing will eat up the de-congestion caused by the $5.00 tolls. And widening a road like I-95 will take a lot of $5.00 tolls.

    Richmond will either take the toll money or will take other local taxes so that loicalities have to use the tolll money for non-transportation issues. In the end it will be yet another tax hike for urban and urbanizing locales in order to subsidize those who refuse to confront their own economic dead ends.

    Once this latest plan has failed the state will step in with a new plan. God help us all then.

    Unfortunately, I don’t have a better plan short of dividing Virginia into 2 states and letting the northern half pursure its objectives while the southern part pursues their objectives.

  10. Anonymous Avatar

    I think that is pretty much correct. The scenario is even worse if you build a new lane for HOT lanes. In that case, all the money collected will go to the contractors and lenders for a very long time before any money goes towards something everyone can use.

    The only reason it works at all is because it limits the use of that lane (even if such limitation means MORE real throughput than unlimited use). But this is clearly the wron answer. Rather than limiting the use of the roadway to the destination, we should have limited the use of the destination, instead of granting those owners unlimited density, that we all wind up paying to support.


  11. Anonymous Avatar

    Strangely enough, one of the ways that we all wind up paying to support unlimited density for some, is by perversely restricting density everyplace else!


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