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Sleep on this: Another government fee penalizing the innocent among us

POSTED September 20, 2013 2:41 p.m.

Oakland has a problem.
Well, OK, Oakland has a lot of problems.
But one of their problems is about to cost you upwards of $14 every time you buy a mattress.
That’s because the California Legislature is coming to Oakland’s rescue the only way they know by imposing fees on law-abiding citizens.
Oakland spends about $500,000 a year collecting more than 5,000 mattresses that are dumped on city streets. The city that has more problems than a year’s worth of guests on Dr. Phil turned to Sacramento for help. The result was passage of a bill imposing a statewide surcharge on mattresses when they are sold. The amount of the fee happens to offset those currently charged by solid waste facilities for disposing used mattresses.
The theory, of course, is it is the facility fees that are prompting those who have mattresses to get rid of to turn the streets of Oakland into one gigantic dump site.
The fee could generate upwards of $60 million a year given that somewhere around 4 million mattresses are sold each year in the Golden State.
The bill, which Gov. Jerry Brown has yet to sign, would fund anti-dumping efforts. That means the creation of yet another state bureaucracy and rolling out nonsensical advertising designed to discourage people who are likely to drive around the neighborhood and look for a place to toss out their mattress from doing so.
Forget the fact there are already draconian fines in place for littering in California. They appear to be as effective as convincing gang members in Oakland to lay down their guns.
So what will happen is that you as a law-abiding Californians who never dumped their old mattresses on the street will now be paying upwards of $14 every time they buy a mattress to fund a state program aimed at discouraging those who do from continuing the practice.
If you think this will somehow reduce 5,000 mattresses being tossed on the streets of Oakland you might also support a $5 charge per bag of dog food for a campaign to discourage irresponsible dog owners from letting their best friends poop on city streets, in  parks as well as on sidewalks and leaving it there.
What will happen is the cost of buying a mattress will go up. People who can never afford to or do not have the desire to do the right thing will continue to discard mattresses along country roads and on city streets. And 20 to 50 more government jobs will be created.
Based on California’s 38 million residents and the fact 4 million mattresses are sold a year that means every 9.5 Californian buys a mattress in any given year. Oakland has just fewer than 400,000 residents. That means its citizens buy 42,000 mattresses. They all will pay up to $14 more even though only 5,000 or just over a ninth of those mattresses are tossed on city streets each year.
It is also worth noting mattresses dumping on city streets aren’t a problem in places like Turlock, Ceres or Manteca, yet all of the residents in such communities will be forced to pay the fee because of inner city behavior.  And if it was, most California cities that govern responsibly incorporate the cost of such collection in users fees charged for garbage collection and don’t siphon the money out of their general fund.
It’s not a problem here in the Valley, but we’re going to pay for the problem in Oakland and then some.
So instead of going after the culprits to secure restitution for collecting, dumping, and enforcing what is essentially an anti-littering law the state is charging law-abiding citizens to fund yet another state bureaucracy.
The mattress surcharge is not the first nonsensical fee in California. It is simply a continuation of a longstanding Sacramento tradition of punishing law-abiding citizens for the sins of the few.
If you want to get married in California you can pay upwards of $90 for a licenses depending upon the county. Regardless of the amount, you will be paying a $23 fee to help underwrite domestic violence shelter programs.
Helping shelter victims of domestic violence is a noble cause. But given the fact that domestic violence victims are not the exclusive result by far of marriage the fee is way off base at exclusively targeting those who wed or register as domestic partners in California.
The most recent Bureau of Justice Statistics report shows that 8.4 percent of women are victimized by intimate partners — married or otherwise — compared to 15 percent by friends or acquaintances when it comes to domestic violence. Assuming those victimized in intimate relationships are split evenly between those in marriages and those not it means the group of people least likely to instigate domestic violence  — those who take the effort to get married — are being penalized by the government for doing so.
In other words the government specifically collects domestic violence fees from the one category of people least likely to engage in such behavior that generates the need for domestic violence shelters to be funded. Likewise most people who buy mattresses don’t toss them along the side of the road but they are being penalized anyway while the perpetuators are getting off Scott-free.
At least this time around lawmakers seeking to fund government’s cause du jour didn’t slap yet another fee on everyone’s favorite subgroup of citizens to shake down —smokers.

This column is the opinion of Dennis Wyatt and does not necessarily represent the opinion of The Journal or Morris Newspaper Corp. of CA.  He can be contacted at dwyatt@mantecabulletin.com or (209) 249-3519.

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