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LA inspection tax by another name needs abolishing

Louisiana may be grubbing for revenues at this time, but it acts best to emulate its neighbor by eliminating the almost totally useless vehicle general inspections and fees that are close to being a joke.

A number of states do not require vehicle inspections, and Mississippi look set to join the bunch as a bill to wipe out its inspection that carries a $5 fee makes its way through that Legislature. The activity might have been a good idea 50 years ago, but that time has come and gone.

Vehicles since then have become much more durable and safer, complete with required computer diagnostics to point out any serious problem instantly. As a result, data from about a decade ago when cars were significantly less safe than now show only a little over one percent of all accidents occur because of something wrong with the vehicle that would be part of an inspection – and involved items that easily could fail in between annual, or now in Louisiana biannual, inspections with little warning, meaning it would be blind luck if an inspection happened to pick up on it right before failure.

Not that inspections might catch it anyhow. For most parts of the state, official inspection stations get $4.75 out of the $10 charged, and for every station that does a thorough job there are those that if they see you drive up and hear that your horn works, they’ll take that fin or two and slap on a sticker, no other questions asked. The scam even is bigger in Orleans, where its notorious brake tag inspection got grandfathered in when inspection went statewide and the city rakes in $25 for a typical passenger vehicle including motorcycles, more for others.

Throw in the fact that if you have to replace a windshield or something else that happens to require a replacement before the term is up (anecdotal evidence is that the two-year stickers don’t last if the car is not garaged in shade) the state takes another $5.25 out of your hide with no re-inspection required, and the joke is complete. About the only worthwhile use any inspection may have is in the Baton Rouge area, where federal law and regulations mandate emissions controls.

Thus, the program is little more than an excuse for the state and Orleans to collect extra revenues. As of the latest 2012 data, Louisiana had nearly 3.9 million private vehicles registered, so assuming all were operating and legally, that means the state takes in about $15.5 million a year from its $4 share of the annual inspections (the remaining $1.25 is to defray administrative costs, and we’ll assume it pays only for program operation). That’s only about one-tenth of a percent of all state-generated revenues, but every little bit helps in these days and times.

Which is not good enough to keep it. As the Pres. Barack Obama economy continues to act as a dragging anchor on Louisiana’s economic success with significantly lower median family incomes and fewer able adults working nationally since he took office, the state’s families could use a break, especially as what they pay for accomplishes next to nothing other than passing money through to private operators, keeping off the roads the troopers who have to spend time overseeing these operators, and maintaining larger government than necessary. There's next to no value added by it, and it certainly is well overpriced as a result. Repeal of all inspections save the ones required by federal law should be on the legislative agenda this upcoming session.


Anonymous said...

Again, over and over, we wonder why our Governor has not reformed matters such as this in the last seven years.

(It is my understanding that a "fee" that results in much more revenue than is necessary for that which the fee was enacted is legally a"tax". We suspect this collection of excess revenue by this Adminstration is welcomed.)

What exactly does a "reformer" do?

Anonymous said...

Mr. Sadow, I am a former House of Representatives staffer. I retired after 27+ years. In my time there were more than one legislator who asked why we still have the law on the books. Public Safety officials have said that it could be repealed as long as the revenue stream is replaced. So as you can see safety is not the primary concern. Also, the New Orleans tag is separate from the state tag. NO has its own. are of the mindset