Remember how the sporting goods tax has been diverted from state parks and the soon-to-be-abolished telephone infrastructure tax was funneled into general revenues after its purpose of connecting rural schools andl libraries had long been achieved. The San Antonio Express-News reports today of another example of a legislative sleight of hand. It turns out $80 million in fees collected through the Driver Responsibility Programs is not flowing through to its intended beneficiary – trauma care hospitals – but is instead being used by lawmakers for…well God knows what. In fact, a rider attached to the 2006-07 specifically held up these funds from being transferred to trauma care centers, who use the money to cover $200 million in emergency care they are legally required to provide to indigent patients.
The article also notes that two-thirds of those assessed the fees (for drunk driving, driving without a license, several speeding tickets, etc.) which are in addition to the fine for the offense are not paying, which amounts to some 775,000 people. For the first drunk driving offense, the driver responsibility fee is $1,000 a year for three years. Surely, most of thse 775,000 folks are still driving, which means they are driving without a license, a Class B misdemeanor punishable by up to 180 days in county jail. That number is ten times the total county jail capacity and it costs about $60 a day to keep someone in county jail.
Dangerous drivers are guilty but so are lawmakers for continuing to hoodwink Texans by diverting funds from their intended purpose into the dark, bottomless pit known as general revenues.