Murphy on fees
Milwaukee Magazine’s Bruce Murphy wrote this week about fees in Murphy’s Law.
The downside of fees is that they can become stealth taxes: Most citizens don’t follow a rise in fees as closely as they watch taxes. Fees can also be more regressive than a property tax.
One example is the night parking fee, which is essentially a tax on poor people and some apartment dwellers. Most middle-class homeowners have a garage and aren’t parking on the street. But in densely crowded, older, generally poorer neighborhoods, there are lots of people without access to a garage who get socked a night parking fee. It’s quite unfair. Recognizing this, former Mayor John Norquist declared that he would support the abolition of the fee in the late 1990s, but the Common Council wasn’t excited about losing this revenue.
It’s bad enough the fee exists. But Ald. Michael Murphy and Ald. Bob Donovan have both proposed to increase this night parking fee, Donovan by 20 percent. Fortunately, the council opposed the idea.
The worst part of the night parking situation is that some poor people don’t pay for permits and end up getting lots of parking tickets. State statistics show more people get their license suspended because they owe money for parking fines and other tickets. This in turn makes it harder for poor people to drive to work and remain employed. If the goal is to make sure as many city residents as possible are employed, it’s counterproductive to increase the night parking fee. If anything, the fee should be abolished.