This Week in California… “Crash Tax” Proponents Ignore Bottom Line

Recently, the California “Crash Tax” has received national attention as Sacramento is one city on a growing list to potentially adopt a measure imposing fines on out-of-town drivers at fault for a wreck. The measure is supposed to increase revenue for local fire and rescue budgets that are strained from accidents resulting from careless visitors to popular tourist destinations.

In a pretty one-sided article in the Sacramento Bee featuring only the voice of proponents of the new tax, the Sacramento city mayor Kevin Johnson echoes those in favor of the tax by calling it, “…a creative way to keep our service levels at the highest possible level.”

Sacramento isn’t alone. According to a city staff report in the article, “Several cities in Northern California, including Loomis, Roseville and Stockton, charge accident fees to ‘at-fault’ out-of-town drivers.” The Orange County Register pointed out that the Huntington Beach City Council is considering a similar measure for its popular beach city.

What many fail to recognize is what exorbitant fees could do to tourism, and ultimately the economy of the popular visiting destinations. If tourists get wind of the taxes and fees hanging over their heads if they are at fault in an accident, they just might avoid those cities altogether. Ultimately, that would hurt the bottom line for those cities that are counting on the revenue from visitors. Also, if a visitor caused an accident near the beginning of their stay in one of the cities or counties that have implemented these fines, the visitor would end up spending his/her money on ambulance fees, and not on puka shells and board shorts that feed into the local economies.

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08 2010

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