What It's Like to Get a Parking Ticket as a Low Income Worker...

August 30th 2014

Alece Oxendine

As the federal minimum wage remains stagnant at $7.25, the state of Rhode Island is increasing the amount of its driver's license registration fees by $10 over the next three years. Though these fee hikes in government services may seem trivial to most, to the person living on minimum wage, they can feel draconian. Rhode Island is not the only state to undergo fee hikes in government services. Since 2013, California increased the cost of their DMV services by $1, while Pennsylvania increased the cost of license plate registration by over 40%. Detroit passed a parking ticket fee hike of $25 in April 2014.

States argue they need the government service fee revenue for other priorities that benefit the public. For example, in Connecticut they raised fees on most DMV services to resolve budget issues. But when people cannot afford these new costs, they are more likely to drive without a mandated renewed license or not pay a parking ticket all together.

Imagine you have $77 to live on per week (the average a minimum wage earner has after housing costs and taxes). 

Minimum Wage Budget Per Week

That means you only have $11 a day to spend on food and transportation for the week. If you need gas to go to work, cut that food budget in half to $5.50 a day ($1.83 a meal!) and you're left with $38.50. Say you park in downtown Detroit to pay a bill or enjoy a free concert--that's the only entertainment you can afford! Now imagine getting a $45 parking ticket. Think about how that affects your ability to pay for food and transportation for the next few weeks. This is not just a challenge but a harsh reality for many Americans. When Ariana Davis of Detroit, MI got her car booted after not paying a parking ticket, she told a local CBS affiliate that she had to dig into rent money to afford to get the boot off. 

It's time to raise the minimum wage. Read why here.