Some local governments want to tax you coming and going.  Have a vehicle accident, pay a fee.  Want to walk on a lighted street at night?  Pay a fee.  After a woman sideswiped a van in Winter Haven, Florida, she got a bill for $316 from the city for the cost of the police response.  From The New York Times, Cities, states turn to fees to fill budget gaps

…But last July, Winter Haven became one of a few dozen cities in the country to start charging “accident response fees.” The idea is to shift the expense of tending to and cleaning up crashes directly to at-fault drivers. Either they, or their insurers, are expected to pay.

It’s as if the city is outsourcing the police job of dealing with accidents to itself,  with those people deemed to be at fault paying twice, first through taxes for the police department and then a second time, for the police doing part of their job.  Leave it to a bureaucrat to invent a new kind of double dipping.

It may be coming to your town in the future:

The “accident response fee” idea could spread, too. A company in Dayton, Ohio, called the Cost Recovery Corporation specializes in setting up collection systems for municipalities that bill for police and fire responses. (The company keeps 10 percent of billings.) Inquiries have tripled in the last year, says the company’s president, Regina Moore.

In case you’re wondering, most vehicle insurance policies don’t cover that kind of expense.

What other ways have been dreamed up to raise municipal money?

Washington’s mayor, Adrian M. Fenty, has proposed a “streetlight user fee” of $4.25 a month, to be added to electric bills, that would cover the cost of operating and maintaining the city’s streetlights. New York City recently expanded its anti-idling law to include anyone parked near a school who leaves the engine running for more than a minute. Doing that will cost you $100.

Generally, the money generated from fees is supposed to go toward a specific use, connected to the activity being paid for, like fishing license fees being used to finance fishing oversight structure.  But critics of cities’ increasing use of fees to supplement tax revenue see it more as a slush fund:

…But groups like the nonpartisan Tax Foundation in Washington worry that governments are now using fees to shore up budget shortfalls rather than cover specific costs incurred by specific users.

“When it comes to paying for bananas, you’ve got the market as a mechanism to make sure you’re paying a fair price,” says Josh Barro, a staff economist at the Tax Foundation. “But when it comes to getting your driver’s license renewed, the government has a monopoly, and you have no idea what it costs the state or what it’s doing with the money.”

This is TARP on the local level.  It’s become the American Politician’s Way.

Oh, about that lady in Florida,

“I’m not paying,” she said, “because it isn’t fair.”

Good for her.

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