WNYC's Bob Hennelly is an award-winning investigative journalist. While at WNYC he has reported on a wide gamut of major public policy questions ranging from immigration and homeland security to power outages and utility mergers.
Drivers who get into accidents may have to worry about a bill from the Fire Department.
Mayor Michael Bloomberg, facing big deficits next fiscal year, is defending the FDNY’s plan to start charging drivers for its emergency response services next summer. The so-called “crash tax” would range from $365 to $490 dollars, depending on the severity of the crash. It wouldn’t matter who was at fault.
Speaking on his WOR Radio show on Friday, the mayor said it’s a better plan than having the FDNY close fire houses. He conceded that it’s a back-door tax, but he said the city needs the money.
The Bloomberg administration points to 55 cities that are already collecting the “crash tax,” including Toledo, Ohio and Schenectady, Utica and Troy, New York.
But David Snyder, with the American Insurance Association, said taxpayers think it’s double taxation for a fundamental government service. “The public reaction to this has been very negative in a number of states, including the state of Pennsylvania, who have prohibited local governments from doing what is being proposed here,” he said.
Robert Sinclair Jr., with AAA New York, said the "crash tax" is an outrageous idea. “Fire and ambulance service is a basic service provided by government that is covered in taxes, and the idea that they need some relief now, and that burden should fall on motorists, we think, is a bad one,” he said.
The new fee could go into effect as early as July. No city council approval is needed, but there will be a public hearing on January 14.