Grits calls the recommendation "surprising" because in 2015, that committee passed legislation to abolish the surcharge. In the interim report, four of the nine members added letters to say they disagreed with the recommendation not to abolish the DRP. Many of the proposals listed have been kicked around in the past by hospital interests which receive the money, so these are recommendations on behalf of the recipients of the funds, not the general public who are paying.
By contrast, Sen. Don Huffines wrote in his dissent on the DRP:
the state cannot continue to justify programs that are uneccessarily onerous to Texans merely based on the revenue thatthese programs generate for the state. To do so would be the antithesis of a limited government philosophy that we should espouse at every turn, where we act on the belief that dollars that stay in the private sector are better spent or invested by families and job creators than they are by state government. It is neither conservative nor compassionate to insist that a debtors' prison, such as the DRP, should be perpetuated to provide a strictly punitive, immoral, and entirely unreliable revenue source for government.Sen. Bob Hall wrote that the committee's recommendations "would be seen by many Texans as a side-stepping of major issues and a complete dismissal of the fact that less than half of the fines and penalties derived from the DRP are being allocated to the Designated Trauma account, complaining that, "The report itself gives only cursory acknowledgement at best to concerns with the program's impact on low income Texans and divergence from the initial intent of the legislation." Grits agrees with both those critiques.
Don't get me wrong: Moving no-insurance and invalid license cases into the point system instead of keeping them as standalone surcharges would be better than a sharp stick in the eye, especially if they also included provisions to eliminate surcharges through community service and mandated another amnesty, to help all the people screwed over by this misbegotten program in the past. But Huffines and Hall are right that abolition should be the goal.
Nobody wants to de-fund the hospitals, so to cover the amount they've been receiving the Lege needs to come up with around $80 million per year. In a budget the size of Texas' even in a tight fiscal climate, that is not an insurmountable task; it's a function of whether legislators possess the political will. Budgets are moral documents. And failing to abolish the Driver Responsibility surcharge after one is educated about the harm it causes is an immoral choice.
RELATED: From Just Liberty: Encourage your Texas senators to abolish the Driver Responsibility surcharge.