The Boston Herald
Friday, January 7, 2000
Mass. speeders face $25 bump in fine
by Robin Washington
Drivers nabbed for speeding on Bay State roads will soon have to fork over an
extra $25 per violation, under a little-known surcharge passed in the state budget last
The surcharge, earmarked for a head injury trust fund, will take effect next month
as soon as authorities can print new tickets and reprogram Registry computers.
"The baseline cost for speeding just went up by 50 percent. Obviously, I
encourage people not to speed," said Registrar of Motor Vehicles Dan Grabauskas,
whose office is charged with implementing the law with state and local police.
Most ticket fines are $50 up to 10 mph over the limit, then $10 for each mph above
that. But drivers already skeptical of speeding laws used as revenue generators decried
the increase. Speeding fines should be about safety and the fines should go toward roads
or cars. It shouldn't be used for other things," said motorist Ivan Sever of Needham.
While calling the fund a noble cause, Sever worried about endlessly rising fines
as other groups latch on to the trend.
"If they keep attaching things like this it'll just grow because everyone
will try to get their share," he said.
The surcharge adds as much as $6 million to the nearly $45 million collected from
about 300,000 speeders annually. The amount supplements roughly $6.4 million budgeted
yearly for head injury rehabilitation out of the state's general revenue funds.
That core budget has remained virtually unchanged since first authorized by former
Gov. Michael Dukakis in the mid-1980s, despite a rising number of head injury cases,
"We're sitting here now with people who have no services and $6.4 million,
it's gone in no time," said Arlene Korab, executive director of the Massachusetts
Brain Injury Association.
"We kept going back to the Legislature and they would say fine, but the
governor would say no and put a red pen through it."
The latest funding method, sponsored by House Ways and Means Chairman Paul Haley
(D-Weymouth), changed the state speeding law after surviving a veto by Gov. Paul Cellucci
by a vote of 141-17. The Cellucci administration likened the surcharge to a broad-based
"We're supportive of the goals, which is to fund residential and home
rehabilitation services for persons with head injuries. But we think it should be financed
through the standard budgeting process," said Cellucci spokesman Joe Landolfi.
Yet supporters say that is exactly where Cellucci failed them.
"Last year after (Cellucci) vetoed it, he publicly said he didn't like the
language and asked the Legislature to pass $2 million in a supplement but it never came
down. We asked for a meeting and were told there's no time for meetings," she said.
The mother of a Northeastern student who suffered permanent brain injury in a car
accident in 1980, Korab said people needing long-term head injury rehabilitation are not
covered by other state programs.
"Retardation has a department. Mental health has one. We kept going to these
places and they said your child is not mentally ill or retarded," she said.
Despite the victory for her side, however, Korab said she understood that some
drivers would be upset.
"I know that some people won't be happy about it but we're not happy that we
have to go this route," she said.
"This isn't something we thought of on our own. Many other states have trust
funds that support brain injuries."
About 10 states have similar funds, though the cost per violation to speeders is
generally lower -- as little as $2 in Arizona and $5 in Louisiana. The states impose much
heftier surcharges for drunk drivers, as does Massachusetts under a law amended in the
1997 budget to allow for a $125 surcharge.
But speeding is different, and in many cases, it's unavoidable, say drivers.
"My mother, who is 80, got a speeding ticket," Sever said.
"She was doing 35 in a 30-mph zone in her Oldsmobile with 5,000 miles on it.
It's easy to say don't speed but it's very difficult in this state."
The Boston Sunday Herald
January 9, 1999
Mass. motorists keep running tab with Legislature
by Howie Carr
So what if the kleptomaniacs in the state Legislature sneaked through another hike
in speeding tickets. Who cares if the hackerama is so eager to rob us again some State
Police say they've been ordered to start adding the $25 surcharge even though nobody's had
time to print new tickets yet.
And yes, this latest shakedown will "only" net the hacks $6 million at a
time when they're steadfastly clinging to the billion-dollar-plus surplus they're stealing
We motorists are still not paying enough.
Or so the pickpockets on Beacon Hill think. The solons still believe that the
commonwealth's 4,420,797 licensed drivers are not contributing nearly our fair share, to
use the so-called advocates' favorite phrase.
So let's look at the numbers, compiled Friday from a variety of sources. Let us
consider the ways in which they were already stealing from us, even before this latest $25
shakedown for the children, er, the head-injury victims.
This first batch of numbers comes from the Commuter Tax Relief Coalition, a group
that began as Free the Pike. These are the guys who are trying to put a question on the
ballot that would give everybody an income-tax credit on whatever you pay in excise taxes
Anyway, here's the Free the Pike list:
- $200 million in tolls. (This is very close: the Pike admits to grabbing $180
million a year, and Massport acknowledges taking $11.6 million in tolls last year on the
- $400 million in excise taxes, and what a bargain they are, especially when you have
pay it on a leased car.
- $1 billion in gas taxes, half of which goes to the feds, but is quickly shipped
back here after the D.C. skim.
- $600 million, estimated, in sales taxes on vehicles, and we all know how that scam
works. Say your grandmother gives you her old car. Even if it was a gift, you still have
to pay sales tax on it unless you petition the World Court for relief. Personally, in
Then there's the Registry of Motor Vehicles. Asked for a list of fees, they
cheerfully said they'd fax over a one-sheet. Six sheets later, I made an executive
decision to only go with the obvious fees.
For instance, a regular driver's license, $33.75, replacement of same, $15.
Registration of vehicle, $30. A certificate of title will cost you $50, a duplicate $25,
which is the same charge as for amending a title, or adding/deleting a lienholder. Other
$25 charges: salvage title, reconstructed title, recovered-theft title.... You get the
Next, inspection stickers. Until September, they cost $15. Now it's $29. You only
get the deluxe inspection every other year, but you have to pay the 95 percent increase
every year, whether you get the super-duper or not.
Then there's insurance, and what few state reps the teachers' unions don't own,
the auto-insurance companies outbid them on. Which is why moving violations and
fender-benders are the gifts that truly keep on giving. That $50 ticket for running a stop
sign -- over the next six years, it'll cost you closer to $1,000 in higher insurance
Say an accident costs you four points on your driving record. Every year you drive
safely, you get one point back. At the end of four years, you're even and you start
earning bonus points again, right? Wrong. You have to wait two more years.'
One thing about Gov. Cellucci. At least he vetoed this latest $25 ticket rip-off.
But his veto was overridden in the House, 141-17, which means some Republicans went along
with the klepto Democrat majority.
Why didn't somebody give us a heads-up about this last fall before it was too
late? How come we had to wait for a tip from a p.o.'ed trooper? Where is the Republican
party on Beacon Hill?
By now you've seen the new Massachusetts quarter. On the tail side is one of the
state's traditional symbols -- the Minuteman. Historically speaking, it's the right pick,
but couldn't we have used a more up-to-date representation of the People's Republic?
Say, a toll collector leaning out of his booth, hand out.