Michigan lawmakers consider scrapping driver responsibility fees
LANSING, Mich. (SINCLAIR BROADCAST GROUP) - Right now, 300,000 Michigan drivers owe the state $600 million.
It turns out thousands of drivers can't or won't pay Michigan's driver responsibility fees.
State lawmakers say the unfair fees need to be scrapped because it's impacting Michigan's workforce.
You can see it on the highway. You’re driving the speed limit: 70 miles per hour. But drivers are bolting past.
If they get caught, and they get a ticket, not only do they have to pay the speeding ticket, they also have to pay a driver responsibility fee.
That fee is crippling many Michigan driver's budgets.
"It's simply unfair, people can't pay it," said Michigan Secretary of State Ruth Johnson.
Secretary of State Ruth Johnson is meeting with lawmakers to scrap driver responsibility fees as soon as possible.
"As an example, if you were going five over and got ticketed for it, you had insurance but forgot to bring your policy, you'd be paying around $250-$300 for those traffic tickets. But add on the driver responsibility fees, it was $900 altogether," Johnson said.
Driver responsibility fees were passed to bring in more money to the state.
Republicans and democrats say the fees have had unintended consequences for Michigan households and employers.
"It's become a huge burden for employment in this state. Obviously if you can't get a license, it's very unlikely you can get a job because getting transportation would be very difficult," said Senator Curtis Hurtel (D-Lansing).
"I truly believe this will help unemployment, whether we are talking northern Michigan or we're talking southeast Michigan, whether we are talking Detroit, wherever it is, this is about getting Michigan back on track, getting people back to work," said Representative Lee Chatfield (R-Levering).
It's not just just lawmakers who dislike the fees. Judges do too.
"It becomes problematic," said Judge Hugh Clarke Jr., with the District Court 54A. “It becomes pretty hard in households. I'm not advocating people drive while licenses are suspended, but if somebody has got to get to work, they've got to get to work. It's either work or take my chances."
If drivers don't pay the fees up front or by payment plan, they lose their licenses. Which is why three hundred thousand people have lost their driver's license.
This bill had two committee hearings on Wednesday. Democrats and republicans are optimistic this bill will get to the governor's desk.