Thursday, February 07, 2013

House rep promotes abolition of Driver Responsibility surcharge

State Rep. Larry Gonzalez held a press conference today calling for the abolition of Texas' Driver Responsibility surcharge, and the Texas Criminal Justice Coalition took the opportunity to issue a public policy report (pdf) calling for its repeal. You can watch the press conference here.

TCJC and Rep. Gonzalez have come up with the best pitch for abolishing the DRP I've heard yet: The Lege doesn't have to pay for it immediately. The state has long short-changed trauma care hospitals who're supposed to receive reimbursement from the fund for uncompensated care, diverting the money to "certify" in the budget in order to draw down unrelated federal funds. Reported TCJC, "budget writers have allowed the dedicated “Trauma Facility & Emergency Medical Services Account” to accumulate a balance of over $370 million in unappropriated funds to help balance the biennial budget – money that could be used to defray an even larger portion of the hospitals’costs."

The DRP at present covers only a portion of uncompensated care costs (which will be somewhat alleviated in states that expand Medicaid under Obamacare). "In 2012, Texas trauma hospitals incurred a total of $234 million in uncompensated care costs but received only $55 million in reimbursements from the state in the form of DRP surcharge revenue." TCJC recommends continuing payouts at current levels until the $370 million runs out, which would give the state until 2019 to figure out a more stable, alternative funding source. Good thinking. And best of luck to Rep. Gonzalez: Grits readers should call their state representative and ask them to join him in supporting HB 104.

MORE: From the Texas Tribune.

See prior, related Grits posts:


Old Cop said...

Kill the damned thing...Now! It should never have been implemented and has done nothing other than create an entire subclass of unlicensed drivers in the state.

Anonymous said...

Whoever came up with this idea couldn't see past the end of their noses. It has created a LARGE group of drivers that are not only uninsured and unlicensed, but unemployable if their jobs depend upon them being able to drive a company vehicle. I have encountered more than a few people who have fallen victim to this nonsensical surcharge, and it needs to be repealed immediately, It's a job-killer. And, from what I understand, the vast majority of these surcharges will NEVER be paid.

Anonymous said...

Congratulations to Rep. Gonzalez for having the courage to take up this issue again! Old Cop has it right...the surcharges have created a financial hamster wheel that both the young and the poor have a very difficult time jumping off of once they get on. When a person is unable to pay the three years' worth of surcharges (or misses an installment!), their license is suspended due to this "default". Invariably, that same person will then pick up a ticket for Driving While License Invalid which results in additional surcharges, a one year period of DL suspension and a "reinstatement fee". New ticket...lather, rinse, repeat. I've encountered countless individuals who owe several thousand dollars in surcharges and fees with no realistic end in sight. It's insanity!! Please contact your representatives and get them on board.

Attorney at Law & Municipal Judge


This is a bill that is timely and necessary. Not having read it yet; I can only hope that the abolishment is retro-active.
The surcharge program, while possibly having an idealistic motive at creation,has basically created a form of "Debtor's prison" for those who cannot afford to pay additional penalties on top of their criminal fines and court costs when they get arrested for DWLS.The same bureaucrats who are going after pay-day loans should sign on in support of this bill, as financial entrapment is insidious, whether by private entities or the State.

T for Trapped in TX said... grandaughter is one of them, has a great job going on for almot 7 years...managing position...license suspended...can't afford SR-22...has to get a ride to work...may loose her job before it's all over...receives commendations at work all the time...had a family crisis event, now owes $18,000+, ???? trying to save to buy 1st home, faces getting arrested, gets a ride from jobless people to get to work....What's up Texas?

Anonymous said...

SEMPERFINE is absolutely correct in this program being a form of “Debtor’s Prison,” something that is expressly prohibited in the current Texas Constitution.

This measure needs to be passed by the Texas Legislature and signed off on by the Governor ASAP.

This program is a classic example of why you ‘getting tough on crime’ can only go so far. At some point ‘getting tougher on crime’ becomes draconian and thus undermines basic human and civil rights.

The Fishing Physicist

Anonymous said...

Yes, yes, yes, yes, yes, Isn'tthis surcharge like Double taxation...double something?

Anonymous said...

I just wish some of the main news outlets here in TX would cover this topic more. It was not even mentioned in the Austin Statesman, and they have a page dedicated to the legislative session. I can personally say that I have not had to face the consequences of this ill conceived program, but fair is fair, and this program is anything but.

Anonymous said...

The article states that Turner authored the original bill but it's been written here before that some female wrote it. Who really is responsible for this piece of Nazism?

Anonymous said...

This surcharge never made sense to me. Violator gets fined at the local level once and three more times by the state. Insanity!