Thursday, July 17, 2014
Shut Up and Take the Money!
You get money from every place you can. I'd even consider charging the public to park.
In the Recorder of Deeds, an increase in recording fees has been in place about a week, with no advance notice to the public at all. The Governor needs the money. We're getting nickeled and dimed, but have been spared an income tax hike. There've been grumbles, but nobody has really complained.
So when I hear that Register of Wills Gina Gibbs wants to raise fees in her office and collect an additional $100,000 per year, I'm all for it. That money would pay for two jobs without raising real estate taxes. But President Judge Steven Baratta, who has been asked to approve the fee increase, is opposed.
He argues he lacks the power. In addition, he claims it's unnecessary because that office already makes money.
I have no quarrel with his first reason, which limits the power of the courts in favor of the other two branches of government. He is a judge. I am a bottom-feeding blogger. I certainly wouldn't want to pick a fight with him on that point. I'd lose. A fee increase can simply be adopted by ordinance.
But the argument that makes no sense at all is his policy argument - the claim that the office already generates a profit.
There is absolutely no legal requirement that any row office be revenue neutral. In fact, the goal should be to make a few bucks wherever we can to defray the costs of all the other money-losing offices in the Human Services arena.
If the goal is to break even, as PJ Baratta seems to suggest, then it's time for him to eliminate all fines on criminal Defendants because the Criminal Division is making a killing. The Recorder of Deeds should reduce fees. Civil Divisions should send rebates to all attorneys filing complaints.
It's a silly argument.
So naturally, the Express Times editorial board and Council member Mat Benol adopted it.
In a County that is in the hole, you take your money wherever you can. It would be fiscally irresponsible to avoid this revenue stream. If the fee hike were unconscionable, I'd see the point. But even where fees are doubled, they go from $5 to $10. Come on! At budget time, watch how fast council members grab this money source.