Remember back on June 12, 2011, when Gov. Bobby Jindal vetoed the renewal of a 4-cent cigarette tax that would have cost the state $48 million per year had the legislature, and subsequently the voters, not passed a constitutional amendment to continue the tax?
Remember how Jindal justified the veto by saying he was opposed to any new taxes even though the bill was for the continuation of an existing tax?
Remember how Jindal consistently expressed his opposition to new taxes but had no problem with colleges and universities raising tuition to partially offset drastic budgetary cuts because the increase was a “fee,” not a tax?
Remember how Jindal has continued to voice his opposition to new taxes while at the same time insisting that the privatization of everything but bathroom breaks and performance reviews for state employees would save the state money? (And don’t count those out just yet.)
Well, how about the privatization (okay, the partial privatization) of the Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) that allows drivers to renew their licenses at one of 108 offices which contract with the state to perform some DMV functions—at an additional charge of $18 over and above the regular $21.50 cost? Employing Jindal’s logic, the $18 is not a new tax, but a surcharge for convenience.
Not much of a savings there, at least from the perspective of those among the 2.9 million motorists in Louisiana who would be popped with the additional fee if they chose a private agent to renew their license.
A Baton Rouge Advocate story on Tuesday (Feb. 18) said the experimental plan has been operational in Metairie and Slidell and is expected in Baton Rouge soon. A Baton Rouge acquaintance, however, says he already encountered the $18 additional fee—a total of $39.50 months ago at one of the privatized kiosks—in Baton Rouge—and opted not to pay in favor of going the traditional route at a state DMV office for the $21.50.
And get this: not a single DMV employee has been laid off. Nor are there any plans to do so, according to State Police Superintendent Mike Edmonson, who calls the private agents “a convenience.”
So where’s the savings in all of this?
A report by the legislative auditor says the program has “saved” the state a minimum of $3.3 million per year but to us it only appears that the new tax…er, fee, has generated an additional $3.3 million for the state. There is a huge difference between generating new revenue and saving money.
If, for example, I purchased a snow blower for the recent Louisiana blizzard of ’14 at a cost of $500 and while it was still in the box, unused because our snowdrifts didn’t justify hauling it out and assembling it, decided to sell it to some poor sucker for $750, have I saved $250 or generated an additional $250 to pay on my maxed-out Visa card?
Well, if you’re like our friend who refused to play the game, there is that $18 savings he realized by staying with the state-run DMV office.