Politicians Target Speeders,
Big Tobacco, Other Minorities
by Barbara Anderson
To those who do not follow politics closely, acts by legislators may seem random,
even chaotic. But if one stands back to view the results, one sees a pattern made up of
For example: the Speeding Ticket Surcharge, which showed up suddenly on the public
radar late last month, having been quietly passed as part of the very late state budget
very late last year. Governor Cellucci vetoed it, and the Legislature overrode his veto,
so it's now the law.
The Speeding Ticket Surcharge of $25.00 will be used to treat head injuries, on
the assumption that head injuries are caused by speeding, which some of them may well be.
Spinal cord injuries could also be caused by speeding, so another bill has been approved
by a legislative committee for another $5.00 surcharge on speeding tickets to create a
Spinal Cord Injury Research Board.
If you speeders out there are beginning to mentally list the other injuries that
might conceivably be caused by speeding, you are beginning to realize that those fines
could easily take up a lot of your disposable income every time you get caught. You might
want to never drive again, since the alternative to speeding is often to cause road rage
in the drivers behind you.
Perhaps we could have a surcharge on reckless driving tickets to pay for all
injuries to anyone who is a victim of any kind of rage because that is where the pattern
goes. It began with the tobacco settlement, in which the tobacco companies were forced to
reimburse the states for Medicaid costs. Flush with victory and a giant share of the
settlement, government lawyers began planning to sue firearms manufacturers for the
medical costs associated with gunshot wounds.
These two assumptions of guilt were particularly strange since both tobacco
companies and firearms manufacturers are making a legal product. There may be a tad more
logic in a speeding fine to help accident victims since at least speeding is illegal. This
logic, however, is incidental to the pattern: inevitably, producers of alcoholic beverages
will be forced to pay for liver transplants and fast food consumers, for heart disease
Hiking gear retailers should pay for the lost productivity of people who fall off
mountains or get eaten by bears. Florists, dairy farmers and pet stores should contribute
to a fund for allergy research, since they sell products that can cause irritation in
Why stop with manufacturers? Users of these products just encourage more
production, and should pay a surcharge on their purchase.
In fact, why stop anywhere? Excuse us, and fine us, for living: we are all in this
vale of potential injury together. Ah, but that would be a tax and politicians would have
to impose it on all of us, angering a possible majority of constituents at one time. Now
you see the pattern, and now you see the cause.
Massachusetts citizens are taxed more than enough. As Governor Paul Cellucci said
in his recent state of the state address, our per capita tax burden is the 5th highest in
the nation. And because he has taken the no new taxes pledge, any attempt to
increase that burden will need a 2/3 vote to override his veto.
It is much easier to override a veto of an obscure outside section of the state
budget, which is over four months late and contains pages of items that the media must
peruse and publicize. All attention was on the general size of the budget, the prominent
education issue, and the small tax cuts: no one but the Governor seemed to care about the
surcharge. He may have been reluctant to call it to everyone's attention, since Senate
President Birmingham would have accused him of not caring about head-injured people and he
was aware of how well this demagoguery worked with the education issue.
So Cellucci quietly vetoed, the Legislature quietly overrode, and speeders are now
charged another $25.00 on top of the previous charge of $50.00 and up, along with the
insurance surcharges. Well, that'll teach them to drive too fast.
Actually, anyone who injures another party while breaking the speeding laws should
pay the medical expenses of the injured person. But according to Ivan Sever of the National Motorists Association,
"'excessive speed" causes very few accidents and deaths on the highways.
"Inattention, inexperience, poor observation, lack of mechanical maintenance, faulty
judgment and low driving skills is what causes many accidents."
So let's have a fine for inattention and faulty judgment while passing
legislation. The money could go into a fund to research why politicians are always lying
about the true cost of public works projects like the Big Dig; but that's another column.
Barbara Anderson is executive director of Citizens for Limited Taxation. Her
syndicated columns appear weekly in the Salem Evening News and the Lowell Sun; bi-weekly
in the Tinytown Gazette; and occasionally in other newspapers.