Cynics might call it typical budget smoke and mirrors. But the nonpartisan Legislative Analyst’s Office says the governor’s proposal to slap speeders with big fines to fund California courts may not be such a bad idea.
Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger’s plans to install about 500 leadfoot-catching cameras around the state “has merit,” the LAO’s office said in a report released Wednesday. But channeling $398 million generated by the fines specifically to trial courts is a bad move, the analysts say.
The money would be better sent to the general fund where legislators can spend it as they wish, the report concludes.
“The administration has not provided a compelling policy rationale for linking these penalty revenues to trial court operations, such as court security,” the report says. “Notably, a court security fee paid by criminal offenders already exists to support the costs of providing security in the courts. In addition, we have not received sufficient information at this time from [the Administrative Office of the Courts] to justify the need for additional funding for court security.”
I'm guessing the AOC could remedy that lack of information real quick. Court officials have been clamoring for more security funding for years.
Under the governor’s plan, the state would upgrade existing red-light cameras to nab speeders whether they’re zipping through an intersection on a green light or a red one. If you’re photographed going up to 15 mph over the speed limit you’d pay a $225 fine. Anything over that would cost $325.
The proposal faces a lot of challenges, not the least of which is securing local governments’ approval to install the new camera technology. Lawmakers have not scheduled hearings to vet the governor’s plan yet.