Using Regressive Taxes to Build Highways

The Washington Post reported today the passage of Del. Albo’s, R-Fairfax, bill (HB 1564) to impose new fines on speeders and reckless drivers. (“VA Delegates Add Fines for Driving Errors.”)

Actually, it appears that the Post has it wrong, It’s HB 1563 that was voted out of the appropriations committee. This bill was sponsored by Del. Tom Rust, R-Herndon, and it’s very similar to the original Albo bill which was rolled into the Rust bill.

Both Albo and Rust are saying that this Bill will raise more than $100 million annually, money that is desperately needed for transportation improvements. (This bill is part of Speaker Bill Howell’s, R-Fredericksburg, bigger plan to raise money for transportation improvements.)

Yet the Impact Statement filed by VDOT estimated that at best the Albo tax would raise $24 million. Obviously, Rust’s version is more onerous on drivers, because VDOT estimates that Rust’s bill could raise between $67 and $72 million annually—still way short of the original predictions.

Let’s make no mistake about this. This is a bad piece of legislation! (See: Why Not a Ticket for Tax Abuse?). This is also a regressive tax that will hurt minorities and the poor who can least afford to pay such penalties. Is the GOP in Virginia really trying to build new highways on the backs of the poor?

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  1. Will Vehrs Avatar
    Will Vehrs

    Unfortunately, most of the speeders who are caught have found an open stretch of highway in between gridlock. Their surpise and exhilaration at actually moving on a Virginia interstate dooms them to the hidden radar gun.

    The speeding and reckless driving in heavy traffic is seldom ticketed in my experience. Police stopping drivers just makes the traffic worse from rubbernecking back-ups and the resulting rear-end collisions.

  2. Jim Bacon Avatar

    Initially, I blew off this piece of legislation as another abomination — another blatant grab on peoples’ wallets in a desperate bid to fund more road projects without undertaking Fundamental Reform.

    But I’ve been thinking…. One of the major causes of severe traffic congestion is traffic accidents. And who is disproportionately likely to cause traffic accidents? Speeders and reckless drivers. One jerk who drives recklessly and causes an accident on Interstate 95 can cause an hour-long backup for thousands of people. If these drivers could be sued in civil court and required to compensate people for the value of their lost time, they’d pay HUNDREDS of thousands of dollars in fines. They deserve what they have coming.

  3. Anonymous Avatar

    It is bad business indeed for lawmakers to mix the penal powers of the state with the objective of raising money. It casts a stench over the important public safety functions of the police forces. The people who are advocating this are (in many instances) the same people who will not talk frankly with the people of Virginia about getting the finances of state in order. If we need funds to address the transportation system, make the case for taxes. Don’t run and hide. Many of us who are tax averse will listen to a compelling case. We simply want assurances that the need is accurately identified and is a core state function, that the money is managed well and that it is not used for purposes other than those that were used to justify the tax.

  4. Phil Rodokanakis Avatar
    Phil Rodokanakis

    Jim, these fines will have no effect on reckless drivers. When folks drive recklessly, they don’t think that they might have to pay a fine if they get caught.

    Furthermore, most of the accidents on highly congested highways are usually caused to inattention, not reckless driving. So the accidents will continue and this legislation will have no impact on reducing congestion.

    And according to VDOT’s impact statement, the money raised from this legislation is only a portion of what its sponsors claim. As you know, VDOT is known for overestimating–not understimating–their projections. So there is a good chance the the VDOT impact statement is over-inflated.

  5. Anonymous Avatar

    Let’s see…Dave Albo’s law firm specializes in traffic court cases…could this bring more business to his firm?

    A shocking conflict of interest!

  6. Anonymous Avatar

    Jim Bacon’s comment about accidents ring true. How often have we read a description of how “the car went out of control”?

    Nonsense, the driver failed to control the car.

    In addition there is a huge difference between an accident and the unintended result of an action deliberately taken. I once watched the door taken off of a disabled/overheated vehicle by some moron driving down the breakdown lane at 45 mph. A split second later and it would have been a fatality. That is not an accident, it’s a crime.

    I forsee a day when cars will have sensors that prevent tailgating and create a minimum of three car lengths distance – even in traffic jams. Such sensors are presently being installed on trucks. By creating space these devices would eliminate a lot of uncertainty, which translates to congestion.

    Bumper to bumper driving actually causes congestion as much as it is the result of congestion.

    If cars on the road won’t leave space then how can anyone merge?

    I’m astonished to watch a crowd of dancers in a crowded nightclub when I reflect that this wriggling swirling mass never touches, yet these same people can’t figure out how to merge.

    Approaching a mege zone I frequently leave a few car spaces in front in case someone wants to merge. This invariably drives the guy behind me nuts.

    Not only that, but if you leave the spaces early in a merge zone, dozens of cars will drive right past the available space and then cause more congestion by cramming in ahead.

    Go figure.

    Rear end collisions ar a major problem. I frequently see several on the way to work. How hard is it to look out the picture window and stay away from whatever is out there?

    This is an area where I think a major, automatic fine for a rear ender would be a big help. Unless you can prove that guy backed up into you, $1000. Period.

    You would think that at 85+ mph you wouldn’t have to worry about tailgaters, but noooooo. There are way too many NASCAR drivers.

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