The Sacramento City Council made a mistake in approving the so-called “crash tax.” Yes, we understand; times are hard. There’s a huge budget deficit, and it costs money to keep the police and fire departments running. But the plan to bill motorists from outside the city who are involved in traffic accidents a minimum of $435 for responding to those accidents (and the cost can jump to more than $2,000 if hazardous cleanup and helicopter transport are required) is simply not an answer.
The city already collects taxes from its visitors—not just hotel taxes, but sales taxes on restaurant meals and shopping. It’s one thing to tax visitors for a good time (or for forgetting to pay for their parking space); it’s another entirely to add a tax on a very bad day in the city. Are we trying to drive people out of town?
It’s not as if nonresidents made a deliberate decision to use Sacramento’s first responders. It’s called an “accident” for a reason.
Paying for police and fire services are the responsibility of the citizens of Sacramento, and the cost of maintaining those services should fall on the residents of the city—even if it means higher local taxes. After all, neighboring cities are also facing budget deficits.
What’s more, this decision will backfire. Not only will other jurisdictions recoup the funds by hitting up Sacramentans who have accidents in their cities—Yolo County is already considering a crash fee—but it will also make people from outlying areas less willing to come to Sacramento. You might not be able to plan where you’ll have a traffic accident, but you can certainly plan where you’ll have dinner, take in a show or go shopping. This method of paying for services is only one step removed from running a speed trap; the council should vote again on the “crash tax.”