Four of These Fees, Doing The Same Thing; One of These Fees, Doing Its Own Thing

To be honest, I’m reluctant to delve too deeply into the governor’s proposed budget for next year; it’s not as if the General Assembly is likely to let much of it stand. Still, the Providence Journal’s report thereon strolls past an interesting lesson in government revenue:

Those with good driving records would have to pay more to get a violation dismissed. Instead of paying a $25 administrative fee, the driver would have to pay the full cost of the fine attached to the violation, a figure that averages $85, according to a court spokesman.
Telephone customers would pay 7 cents more, instead of the current 26 cents, to help pay for Internet service in schools and libraries. Released prisoners on probation would pay $20 monthly, a $5 bump toward the cost of keeping them under watch.
For the elderly, there would be a new $2 per trip fee for state-provided rides to the doctor, a meal site or what is commonly called “elderly daycare.” Last year alone, the Department of Elderly Affair paid for more than 22,000 such trips.
The elderly also face increases in co-pays for home care and daycare. The minimum $3-an-hour co-pay for home care would go up by $1.50, and the minimum $5.50-a-day co-pay for time spent at a daycare center would also rise by a minimum of $1.50. Those with higher incomes would pay between $2 and $2.50 more.

These are sold as “fees,” thus allowing the governor to make the “no new taxes” pledge (which is so rife with dubious connotations), but taxpayers should take note of one of these fees that doesn’t seem to fit.
Drivers pay more for violations, which have administrative costs for the state (and have greater costs when they lead to accidents). The two fees targeting the elderly have to do with offsetting the cost of services that they, themselves, are using. And prisoners on probation pay a higher percentage of the cost of keeping an eye on them, which their own actions have persuaded the public is necessary.
The telephone fee, though, is a nearly arbitrary transfer of the costs of public services to people who use a vaguely related service, and almost all households are affected. That isn’t a fee; it’s a tax, albeit one tied to a designated expenditure.
Compared with the taxes that the General Assembly seems intent on including in its own budgetary actions, seven cents on the phone bill is barely a blip. But let’s be sufficiently honest to call it what it is.

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Ken
Ken
13 years ago

Justin,
If the fees (so called not raising taxes) are ear marked for specific programs you will not find a “Restricted Receipts” account set-up for those funds to use as specified.
The General Assembly has the catch all big bucket setup for any State of RI receipts. It’s called the General Fund.
Specifying receipts for a specific program is misleading because all the funds go into the General Fund except 2% that have “Restricted Receipts” accounts already set-up.
Library Services and schools are very well taken care of with grant dollars and charge backs each year.
Ocean State Library (OSL)in Warwick, RI:
“Funding for most OSL computer and telecommunications equipment has been generously supplied by the Champlin Foundations. OSL’s operating budget comes entirely from fees paid by its members”
http://www.oslri.org/
Rhode Island Network for Education Technology (RINET) in North Kingstown
“Approximately 350 schools, non-profit and governmental organizations are subscribing members. The following tables list the districts, independent schools, educational collaboratives, non-profit organizations and municipalities connected to the Internet through RINET’s high speed ATM/Frame/Ethernet network:”
http://www.ri.net/
7 cents adds up a lot across the board per each telephone in the state of RI. No one has posted the current operating budgets and funding requirements. “Federal” tax dollar supplied “INTERNET 2” is supplied to Brown University and URI which RINET, OSL and all the other (private (for-profit) and non-profit) are connecting to for set contracts.
What is this money (7 cents) really going to be used for? I don’t think the budget deficit or schools or libraries because it’s so inconspicuous and no indication a “Restricted Receipts” account will be setup for the use.

Pragmatist
Pragmatist
13 years ago

Ken,
I don’t know what you are talking about. There is a restricted receipt account. § 39-1-61(d)(1):
“The surcharge shall be deposited in a restricted receipt account, hereby created within the department of elementary and secondary education and known as the telecommunications education access fund ….”

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