Thursday, November 15, 2012

Is 2013 the year Texas legislators axe Orwellian-named Driver Responsibility Surcharge?

The Texas Tribune has an item today on the bill by Round Rock Republican state Rep. Larry Gonzales (mentioned in this Grits post) to abolish the Orwellian-named Driver Responsibility program. Here's a notable excerpt explaining why large hospitals are opposing the idea:
Gonzales' bill is just the latest in a years-long campaign by critics to put an end to a program they say is ineffective and unfair. But the program also provides millions of dollars to trauma centers across Texas, and the specter of eliminating those funds has emergency care providers worried.

"It would have a huge impact on the trauma system as we know it," said Dinah Welsh, CEO of the Texas EMS, Trauma and Acute Care Foundation.

The program has generated about $751 million for the state since its creation in 2003. About half of that has gone to the state's general revenue fund.

About $381 million of the program's revenue, though, has gone to the Designated Trauma Facility and Medical Service Account. The fund, created in 2004 and administered by the Texas Department of State Health Services, helps offset the costs of emergency care hospitals provide for patients who cannot afford to pay for it.
This is not a new idea, but support for it is growing. Judges routinely deride the "devastating" effects of the surcharge on the court system. A focus group of criminal justice experts convened by the Legislative Budget Board last fall "voiced support for ending or reforming the Driver Responsibility Program (DRP), which provides significant financial burden on DWI (and other) offenders with seemingly little to no public safety enhancement." The original bill author has said it was a mistake and Mothers Against Drunk Driving has said they won't mind if it's repealed. Even DPS Executive Director Steve McCraw finds no public safety benefit in the program. It's really just a scheme to mulct drivers low-income drivers, too often catching them in a slippery slope of perverse financial incentives that promote unlicensed, uninsured driving more than discouraging it, not to mention joblessness and declining DWI conviction rates.

Grits has written a great deal on this subject and no doubt will have more to say in the future. But for now let me say I wholeheartedly endorse Rep. Gonzales' bill and wish him all the best with it. Readers should contact your state representative and ask them to support and co-sponsor it. For more background on why the Driver Responsibility Surcharge should be abolished and trauma centers funded through a more reliable source, probably state general revenue, see these prior, related Grits posts:


Brian T said...

This is a hot topic for all Texans. Times are rough. I don't have to tell anyone that. I work in finance, but struggle to make ends meet myself.

jdavis said...

Although it was finally enacted as part of HB 3588 by Krusee (an omnibus highways and transportation bill that also included the Trans Texas Corridor), it should not be forgotten that the DRP began its legislative life as HB 3203 by Delisi and SB 1447 by Shapiro.

Anonymous said...

It is better the traffic law breakers pay than the law abiding citizens. As we all know someone is going to have to pay that ER bill.