In some pockets of the State of Pennsylvania, many municipalities are seeking to plug gaping budget deficits with the re-collection of expired parking fines. The rational for this policy is that some municipalities have a large amount of uncollected parking fines. When those fines have an uncommunicated late fee applied to them, then they become millions in outstanding revenue for that municipality.
Do you think this is fair?
By jacking up parking fees and fines, many municipalities are enacting a hidden ‘poor person’s tax.’ Let us explain. A parking ticket that is twenty, thirty, or fifty dollars, when added to it with a $200 late fee penalty, can become a significant percentage of what that individual would pay in local taxes. This could be 50% more each year in paid taxes that a well-intended citizen may receive unknowingly.
By stiffing citizens with this added tax, municipalities are creating a hidden tax bracket where poorer residents receive a SIGNIFICANTLY higher portion of their annual income applied to municipal tax than wealthier individuals. To a person who makes $25,000 per annum, a $250 parking fine and associated late penalty adds a 1% tax rate to their annual income.
Adding this ‘poor person’s tax’ to the already overburdensome tax regime of local towns and cities across our great State is adding a significant new tax burden to residents who are already ‘tapped out.’ But doing so to justify gaping budget deficits is a whole other problem.
We must begin asking the hard questions at the municipal level. Why are PA municipalities so indebted? What has happened over the decades to drive such fiscal crisis? Why would politicians’ resort to ‘nickel-and-diming’ their constituents, especially their poorest residents? Should PA begin to re-evaluate the schemes that are being used at the municipal level to cover-up gaping budget deficits?
We think so.