7/29/2011 12:04 PM ET|
Governments getting more fee-happy
Strapped cities and states are finding creative ways to assess charges on residents for all kinds of things. Be prepared to start paying your government more in fees.
Raising taxes raises taxpayer ire, which is why strapped governments are turning to fees to raise money. In their enthusiasm, though, governments are blurring the line between taxes and fees.
Taxes are generally broad-based levies that don't necessarily provide an individual benefit. (Let's hope you never need the firefighters paid for by your taxes, for example.)
Fees, on the other hand, typically have been more targeted and are usually levied on someone enjoying some type of benefit. If you want to experience the great outdoors, for example, you might have to pay a park entrance fee.
Once upon a time, those fees might have been earmarked to pay for rangers, restroom maintenance and other amenities. But governments have discovered they can slap fees just about everywhere and use the money just about anywhere.
There are even fees to pay fees. Many agencies now take credit card payments, but often people have to pay a 2% to 3% processing fee to use plastic.
Here are some others, culled in part from the National Conference of State Legislatures' database of state measures to close recent budget gaps.
Fees on fun
Recreation is a great way to relieve the stress of a bad economy. But leisure activities are also juicy targets for lawmakers bent on raising revenue.
Several states have raised fees for hunting and fishing licenses, boat permits, camping and access to parks. Here's just a sample:
- Rhode Island has boosted daily parking fees at state beaches from $7 to $15 for residents and from $14 to $25 for nonresidents.
- Connecticut has doubled the entrance fee at state parks (at many parks, it's now $9 on weekends for residents and $15 for nonresidents) and the fee for an inland-fishing license (it's now $40). The saltwater-fishing license, which used to be free, now costs $30.
- Idaho has raised fees on out-of-state hunters and anglers. A nonresident combination hunting and fishing license costs $235, up from $198, while a nonresident elk tag costs $415, up from $371. Idaho has created a fee for recreational boaters, ranging from $5 to $20, to pay for boat-washing stations designed to stop the spread of invasive mussels.
- New Hampshire also has added a fee: an annual boating license that costs $15 per person, or $150 for party boats.
- In Oregon, boats longer than 10 feet now require a $5 annual permit. Day-use fees at state parks have been increased from $3 to $5.
- Virginia has raised the cost of more than 40 types of hunting, fishing and trapping licenses. Basic hunting and fishing licenses have risen $5 apiece to $23, while permits for nonresidents have leapt as much as $50. For nonresidents, hunting licenses now cost $110 (or $550 for a lifetime pass).
How to cope: Don't skip required permits or licenses; the fines are usually far higher if you're caught. You may qualify for discounts if you're disabled and/or a senior. Also, some states offer lifetime licenses and permits, which can be a good deal if you plan to remain a resident for more than a few years.
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Eventually they'll run up against the concept of "elastic demand," which is a fancy way of saying that the more something costs, the less people will buy it. You can sell 10 park passes for $25 or 50 passes for $10. Which makes more money? And then there's the problem of cheating. Park across the road and walk to the park and pay nothing.
Gouge your tourists and they go elsewhere. Gouge your own residents and they find ways around it or stop using the service. Either way, your economy loses. That's just Econ 101.
Typically, fees are the only revenue tools of those who have taken a political stand against raising taxes. Hasn't anyone noticed that when they don't tax you, the fees will always increase. It is a matter of spin control by the all taxes are bad crowd.
Why not have a simple flat tax without tax breaks and loopholes for anyone? It would diminish the power of lobbyists, reduce political corruption and questionable campaign fund raising, as well as stop big tax breaks for the big money interests. It was aristocratic interference and taxation without representation that fueled the American Revolution. The new anti-tax revolt is funded by the new aristocracy under the guise of a popular political movement. The question is who benefits? It doesn't look like the middle class, to me.
Unfortunately, government is just like any other monoply in that it can charge what it wants and there's nothing that can be done about it. Only thing that is troublesome is that economic monopolies are regulated by the government but who's regulating the governmental monopoly?
Why do we keep putting up with this? When are people going to stand up and say "no more ripping me off"?
These fat agencies and local government nesters are just protecting their fat paychecks and benefits while everyone else spins downward.
Someone who knows how needs to initiate legislation to restrict any government fee increases without voter approval.
The other thing I noticed is that there has been a lot of talk about 'not raising taxes but instead closing loopholes', which is basically just political nonsense, as the end-game is still the same: extracting more money from the taxpayer.
I think the fundamental problem is that the size and inefficiency of our government is dragging down the entire country. It seems like the government only gets bigger (never smaller), and it's just an increasing burden to be carried by our struggling economy.
Six years ago, I retired from a municipal government with over 31 years of service. These fees mentioned in the article are nothing new. Back in the 80's, with budget cuts and property tax rates limited, a trade magazine for gevernment told how to develop fees on services without calling them taxes. That way, they couldn't be subjected to roll backs, and governments would be able to say "in this economy, we didn't raise your taxes."
In addition, governments could leave their tax rates the same, and appraisal districts could appraise your property at a higher value, resulting in higher taxes on your property. Basically, this article is telling what has been going on over the years, and some governments are just now picking up on it.
This is utter ****! Just because it's the law does not make it lawful! It is time for Americans to stop being such self indulgent ****s and call **** what it really is, ****, but if what it is going to take for the people of this nation to realize they are already ethically and morally bankrupt is to get hit in the only place it ever seems to really hurt them, their wallets, I say bring it on!
Bob Sanchez it is an eyes opener. Every thing is said is 110% right. Everyone needs to see it. Thank you and God bless the American Families in there time of need.
NO ONE REALLY CARES: Today in the United States, there are over 26 million American families living on the streets! With more on the way! Republican Party are un-American! They did all this bull in the first place! My Family was holding are own and we are down to only the basics to live. Roof, lights, heat, landline phone and food. No going out ever to eat, movies or to go away for a day or two to have fun. The Government needs to go out and get a really job to feed itself like all Americans have to. For now on all the money I work my butt off for is for my Family. Get your own!
Chrage the Poor to Feed The wealthy!
Charge the hungry to feed The Wealthy!
What a pathetic country the United States oof America has become
Wealth over life
Evidently those in Washington DC have forgotten the values that made this country grand, as today there is no leadership, no compassion or empathy for the fellow man---well unless they are wealthy enough to meet at the top golf course, pay off constitutes to alter facts or who fail to pay thier taxes as they have loopholes and privileges to obide by in order to get another kickback.
MR. Obama if you reallyy want to make that change end the bullsh-t and stop charing the poor to feed the wealthy!
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