The following is cross-posted at www.fiscalaccountability.org:
You’ve prepared them many times, and they always seem to look the same. But this story from Washington State underscores why you should carefully read through any form you get from the government line by line, and not just leave unchecked the boxes you used to leave unchecked in the past – or else you might be paying for it.
As our friends from the Evergreen Freedom Foundation report, the fact that the state’s collection of state park "donations" has gone up drastically this year is not because Washingtonians suddenly discovered their love for the outdoors, but is the result of a sneaky legislative change to the form drivers send in to pay their license fees. Write’s EFF’s Amber Gunn:
The legislature changed the law earlier this year to make the $5 donation "opt out," rather than "opt in." In other words, when Washington drivers go to pay their tabs, the bill will show an extra $5 unless the driver checks a box NOT to donate.I personally know two individuals who unwittingly paid the fee, thinking it was part of their overall bill. Apparently thousands of Washingtonians are experiencing the same oversight.
The proof? Under Washington’s old "opt in" system, only about 1.41% of drivers participated. That amounts to a 12-month collection total of just over $635,000–less than half of what the state collected in a month under the new "opt out" law.
The vast majority of these new "donations" are simply an oversight by drivers. And that’s exactly what legislators counted on. When the law changed the donation from opt in to opt out, legislators expected it to raise about $27 million for the biennium, and they are right on schedule.
That’s what I call a sneak attack. (Granted, you can get a refund, but still, this is ridiculous. The intention of the money grab is quite transparent, while the practice is the opposite.)
And given the dire fiscal straits states are in, don’t think something like this can only happen in liberal Washington State – so be careful when filling out government forms. They may tell you they’re transparent in their ways of doing business, but they probably already have plans to spend the money they dupe you into forking over.