In a misguided attempt to find other sources of revenue, cities throughout South Florida are actually considering charging a fee to those citizens who are involved in auto accidents within their city limits. This month, the town of Davie will likely vote whether to bill non-residents who are involved in automobile accidents in their city.
The Florida Sun Sentinel reports that Davie is defending the fee as “a way of recouping tax dollars that are spent on non-residents”, town spokesman Braulio Rosa said. Davie is considering an average charge of $840.00. Miramar, Plantation and Southwest Ranches are still undecided as to what to charge, if anything, and under what circumstances.
There are those that are worried that this will start a fee war between the cities. The city of Weston has already threatened to respond by passing a similar ordinance if their residents are charged. The American Civil Liberties Union may challenge these ordinances on constitutional grounds. Brandon Herslan, a spokesman for the ACLU of Florida, stated that by singling out non-residents, proposals being considered in Davie and Miramar “raise questions about equal and fair treatment of citizens” and could spur lawsuits.
The cities are responding by saying they will bill the driver’s insurance companies. Michael Connolly, a spokesman for State Farm Insurance, the state’s largest private insurer, responded by saying automobile insurance premiums will rise.
This issue represents a microcosm of the problems that have been caused by the cuts in our state’s budget. These cuts have left local governments in a desperate search to make up the lost funds that they were once receiving from the state. Compounding this problem is the decrease in the local tax base caused by the pop of the real estate bubble and the significant increase in foreclosures.
However, by creating these quasi tax schemes, the citizens of all cities are the ones that are harmed. With the state and national economy causing widespread problems for everyone, it is time for the cities to slash even more fat out of their budgets.
Cities should retain independent companies to analyze their budgets and recommend reasonable cuts that will force the cities to operate more efficiently. Disparate tax schemes, like the one discussed in this article, are not the answer and may in fact be unconstitutional depending on how they are framed.