Russell Pearce Wrong: State Already Has Surcharge to Defensive Driving Schools; Higher Fees May Hurt Industry

State Senator Russell Pearce's plan to add a state surcharge on the cost of taking defensive driving school to pay for the Arizona Department of Public Safety's crime lab contains one major problem:

A $45 surcharge on motorists taking the classes already exists, and Pearce's proposal for a new surcharge of up to 47 percent would make defensive driving school much more expensive than paying a speeding ticket.

In an Arizona Republic article today, Pearce (left) doesn't seem to realize lawmakers added the surcharge last year:

People pay surcharges on many other fees and fines, such as traffic tickets, but not on defensive-driving-school fees, which Pearce termed a loophole.

In fact, a surcharge enacted last year pushes the option of defensive driving school to roughly the same price as a ticket. For instance, taking the class in Phoenix used to cost $135. Now it's $180, the same cost as a typical Phoenix speeding ticket. You can see a list of school costs for various Maricopa County jurisdictions -- with the surcharge clearly noted -- by clicking here.

Defensive driving school, as most motorists know, is typically given as an option for first-time traffic violators. Once the four-and-a-half-hour class is completed successfully, penalty points that could lead to higher insurance premiums are no longer assessed against a motorist's driver's license.

"People are not going to pay another $50 to take the class," says one local driving school owner who did not wish to be named for this post.

The owner says Pearce likely knows this, because his true goal is to kill the entire defensive driving system.

After all, Pearce sponsored a bill (HB 2749) last year that would have done exactly that, claiming the program "had no measurable success." The bill failed, allowing dozens of Arizona driving schools to survive.

Considering that "surcharge" is just another word for "tax," what you have here is a potential example of how a burdensome tax can shut down a whole industry. And, ironically, the person proposing this idea is a conservative Republican.

Hammering home the hypocrisy in this proposed surcharge is this quote from a recent diatribe by Pearce on his Web site:

I am not willing to raise taxes on families or businesses, as they are already over taxed and over regulated.

Over-surcharged, though -- that's apparently okay with Pearce.

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