Kaine calls for repeal of abusive driver fees

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by Jessica Sabbath

Gov. Timothy M. Kaine proposed repealing the state’s abusive driver fees in a surprise announcement during his State of Commonwealth address on Wednesday night.

Kaine said the legislation, which put large fees on Virginia drivers for offenses including reckless driving and driving under the influence, had failed to keep Virginia’s roadways safe and raise as much revenue as predicted.

The fees were one of the least controversial portions of the transportation funding overhaul passed by lawmakers last year. But the fees sparked outrage among Virignia residents, who complained about the steep fees and the fact that they applied only to Virginia drivers. A state law requires that all driving fines go to Virginia’s literary fund, and lawmakers could only apply fees to Virginia driver’s license holders.

When citizen outrage began, Kaine initially defended the fees. But a recent study by the Joint Legislative Audit and Review Commission showed that the state might have to suspend 300,000 licenses over the next two years because of unpaid fees. In addition, 2007 was one of the worst years for traffic safety in Virginia. More than 1,000 Virginians died in traffic accidents, a number not reached since 1990.

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