A Tax on Accidents?

There’s no question that deficit-plagued governments need to be more creative in generating new revenue. But it’s one thing to be creative. It’s another thing to be downright stupid.

The city’s Fire Department, home of thousands of authentic New York heroes, is considering a plan to charge fees for responding to motor-vehicle accidents. Yes, you read that correctly: If some putz with beer on his breath jumps a red light and plows into you, the FDNY could charge you up to $490 for pulling you out of the wreck and transporting you to the hospital.

As if getting broad-sided isn’t painful enough.

This proposal is beyond absurd. It sounds like a joke, really, but it’s not. In fact, Mayor Bloomberg is all for it, which makes you wonder about sanity levels in the bullpen at City Hall. A public hearing on the plan was scheduled for Dec. 14, after this issue went to press. With any luck, outraged New Yorkers let City Hall and the FDNY know that there are limits to government’s ability to reach into their pockets. If paying a fee for assistance after a car accident isn’t the final insult, it’s pretty damn close.

New Yorkers pay high taxes in return for basic services, including the rather simple expectation that they won’t have to dig into their wallets if a city worker has to pull them out of a twisted piece of metal. Granted, some small municipalities charge fees for services New Yorkers take for granted, but other municipalities don’t have local income taxes and all the other fees and taxes we pay to support a world-class system of fire and emergency services.

What’s almost as frightening as the proposal itself is the apparent time and effort that went into drawing it up. For example, the plan’s authors have drawn a careful distinction between accidents involving injuries and accidents in which nobody is injured. So the FDNY would charge motorists the top rate of $490 when they are injured and so require extensive medical services. Accidents involving no injuries would be a comparative bargain at just $365. So if you’re in an accident but you’re a little hard up for cash, you might want to sew up that gash on your arm or set your broken leg yourself–it’ll save you more than a hundred bucks!

The plan also has a special category for car fires. They’ll cost you $415 if there are no injuries.

Who comes up with these ideas? And why does the mayor think this is a good way to raise $1.5 million a year?

The City Council and taxpayers ought to raise hell over a tax that sounds like a parody of government overreach. And the mayor really needs to think twice before he gets behind another dumb idea like this one.