By MELANIE HICKEN
From bullies in a small Wisconsin town to slow drivers in Florida, people across the country are facing a variety of new taxes and penalties.
In Monona, Wis., home to about 7,500 residents, bullies (and their parents) can now be fined under a new law that has been in effect since May 30.
Under the law, all forms of bullying and harassment, ranging from schoolyard tussles to cyber-bullying, can result in a fine of $114 for a first violation and $177 for any subsequent violations. Anyone 12 and older can be hit with the fine. In extreme instances, parents of kids under the age of 18 can also be fined for their child's bad behavior, although they must receive a written warning first.
The law wasn't just written to curb bullying at the playground. It's also meant to deal with adult issues like neighborhood disputes, said Monona's Police chief, Wally Ostrenga. So far, no "bully tickets" have been given out.
The so-called "bullying tax" is just one of a series of new local and state taxes, penalties and fees that consumers are facing. And many of them take effect today, the first day of the fiscal year for most states.
In Florida, pesky drivers who are plodding along in the fast lane can now be ticketed and fined $60 under a provision of a larger highway bill that takes effect today.
The so-called "road rage" law makes it illegal for motorists to drive more than 10 miles below the speed limit in the left lane of a multiple-lane road or highway if another car is coming up behind them.
The ticket would have the same effect on a driver's record as a speeding ticket, said Florida Highway Patrol Lieutenant Jeff Frost, which means it could also lead to a higher insurance bill.
Slow drivers and bullies aren't the only ones taking a financial hit. Here are some of the other new taxes and fees going into effect across the country:
Lighting up: It just got more expensive to be a smoker in Minnesota, which is more than doubling the state's tax on cigarettes from $1.23 to $2.83 a pack.
The state now has the sixth highest cigarette tax in the nation, according to the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids, although it still pales in comparison to New York's tax of $4.35 per pack.
iTunes and e-books: Also in Minnesota, consumers will have to pay more for digital diversions, under a new state sales tax on digital downloads that takes effect today. A $9.99 e-book purchase, for example, will get charged 69 cents in sales tax.
Shopping: In Arkansas, shoppers will face a state sales tax hike of 0.5%, which brings the state rate to 6.5%. The hike translates to an additional $3 in sales tax on a $600 big-screen TV.
Green vehicles: Being green doesn't pay in Virginia. Under part of a state transportation funding bill passed this spring, owners of hybrid and electric vehicles will have to pay a new $64 annual fee on top of car registration fees. Supporters of the tax argued that drivers of these green cars use the roads, but escape paying the gas taxes that help fund road repairs.
Hitting the road: Just in time for summer travel season, many consumers will face a higher price at the pump in at least five states, ranging from California to Maryland, which hike their state gas taxes today.
While gas taxes are bemoaned by drivers, Scott Drenkard, an economist at the Tax Foundation, said they are actually good tax policy since they help fund road upkeep and repairs.
"They help connect users of roads with the costs of driving on those roads," he said.
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