In this tough economy, there is tremendous pressure on state and local governments to come up with additional revenue.
Unlike the federal government, they must balance their budgets every year. That's why some are now beginning to resort to a drastic measure -- the so-called "crash tax."
After his traffic accident, Jay Middleton expected to pay for the damage to his car. However, he did not expect a nearly $300 bill from police in the Pennsylvania town where he had the accident.
"But after calling the police department and learning that this was debt that I was liable for, I went ballistic," Middleton said.
Paula Callahan, another accident victim, was charged $1,500 from the fire department after she totaled her car. The bill was composed of $50 for a broom, $175 for traffic cones, and $50 for a shovel.
"The $50 comes prorated," explained Justin Mochar, Irwin Fire Chief. "If you break equipment you have to repair it."
"I think that's outrageous," Callahan said. "It's a volunteer fire department. They show up at the scene whether you call them or not."
The "crash tax" is catching on across the country as state and local governments, desperate to close massive budget shortfalls, search for extra revenue. New York City plans to start charging this summer when its fire department responds to traffic accidents. Mayor Michael Bloomberg is defending the move.
"Would you like them to close firehouses?" Bloomberg asked. "Or would you like them to have less technology in case something goes wrong and they say, 'Oh the heck with it.' I don't think so. So they've got to raise the money."
New York City Council Speaker Christine Quinn is promising serious scrutiny. Still, the $2.4 billion deficit the city faces beginning July 1 will not be up for debate.