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Taxes are not the only way government wrings money out of the workers. Governments also impose fees, and the Sacramento Bee has recently exposed one of California’s favorite tricks: Government establishes fees, which the Bee describes as “targeted assessments to people who participate or benefit from a state program for the purpose of funding that service.” The government said the fees were temporary “but quietly extended them as expiration dates neared.”
According to state records, “nearly two of every three state fees scheduled to end between 2010 and 2012 have been kept alive for years to come.” Further, “thirteen of 21 fees received extensions, cumulatively raising more than $70 million annually for programs ranging from a missing persons database to an effort to fight auto insurance fraud.” Government not only extends the allegedly temporary fees. They also jack up the price.
In 2003, the state tacked a $20 court fee on all criminal convictions, including traffic violations. The state later raised the fee to $30, then to $40, twice the original amount, “then expiration dates were eliminated, leaving the charge permanent.” In 1991 the state slapped a fee of $3.15 on steelhead fishermen then proceeded to extend it four times and raise it to $7.05, more than double the original amount.
The Bee report also notes that in the past three years eight fees have been allowed to die. Now governor Jerry Brown wants to bring back a small fee on homeowners’ insurance policies “to help fund the state’s Seismic Safety Commission.” The state’s income and sales taxes, highest in the nation, are evidently inadequate for that task, and the Commission is apparently off-limits to the type of cuts that affect to ordinary citizens, such as closing parks while the parks department has secret slush fund of $54 million.
Extending and raising temporary fees is another application of government greed and deceit. The practice is particularly hypocritical coming from a government that purports to protect people from unethical business practices. But state governments hold no monopoly on bait and switch tactics.
The federal government began withholding money from workers’ paychecks in 1943, during World War II. It was supposed to be a temporary, wartime measure but 70 years later the federal government still gets workers’ money even before they do.