10.07.2009

"Tougher" penalties for drinkers, not drunk drivers

I'm all for cracking down on drunk driving. I think it is possibly the dumbest thing a person can do and we should treat those who repeat as criminals.

One would think that this would be a simple thing. One would think that this would be a nonpartisan issue. Well, so much for wishful thinking.

The senate bill that is being considered right now does not properly penalize repeat drunk drivers. If we are serious about punishing drunk drivers, the bill would be simple. The first offense is a misdemeanor with at least a $1,000 fine and loss of your license for 1 year. The second offense should be a felony and carry stiffer fines and at least a 5 year suspension of your license. On the third offense your license is gone for good and you will do jail time.

That's a tough drunk driving law. The legislature is doing nothing to actually penalize drunk driving.

So, if they aren't penalizing drunk drivers - people who put everyone else's life in danger when they are on the road - who are they penalizing?

People who drink. The senate bill raises the liquor tax by more than 50% in order to pay for the increased incarcerations. Sounds reasonable, but here's the thing: it's not going to be earmarked for drunk driving jail terms. This is nothing more than an excuse to raise another tax to plug holes in the state budget.

We see this every year with the cigarette tax. Gov. Doyle has claimed that he looks forward to a day when we don't collect a dime from that tax, yet the state is as addicted to the money it collects from it as the smokers are to the nicotine. If the legislature is serious about ending drunk driving, then being serious about penalties is the way to do it. Unfortunately, they aren't. They just want an excuse to raise another tax.