The Texas "Surcharge" Program: Time for the Legislature to Abolish It

Drivers Responsibility Program:  Time for the Legislature to Abolish It


On January 30, 2018, the Texas Legislature’s Senate Finance Committee had a hearing on Texas’ Driver Responsibility Program, known as the “Surcharge Program”.  Senator John Whitmire very eloquently reminded the Committee’s members that they are “blessed” and that they can’t lose sight of the millions of Texans who live “day to day”.  I cannot emphasize enough how true this is.


The DRP, or “surcharge program”, has had devastating consequences to poor and lower income Texans. 


The Texas Criminal Justice Coalition has found that due to the surcharge program:


·         There are 1.3 million Texans driving on a suspended license because of surcharges.  These Texans have a harder time insuring their vehicles and when they get in accidents the other driver is left with no possibility of recovery for the damages. 


·         More than 50% of the Texans with suspended licenses have lost jobs or been denied jobs because of their suspended licenses, which hurts our state’s tax base and hurts their families.


·         Texas counties are left paying for enforcement of Driving While License Invalid cases – in some counties 1 in 5 misdemeanor cases are DWLI.  This costs all of us.


This is just some of the reasons why this program needs to be abolished.  It is a regressive tax on the poorest Texans.  It is a consequence assumed when unsophisticated Texans just “pay” a ticket for Failure to Maintain Financial Responsibility or DWLI instead of asking for a deferral.  It is a second penalty when people have already paid the fine allowed under the law.  It is fundamentally unfair and unjust.


Let’s put some pressure on the Texas Legislature to abolish this essentially regressive tax on the people who can least afford it – one that brings with it a whole set of economic consequences that are costing us all.