11/2/2009Massachusetts: Red Light Cameras Proposed to Fight Deficit
Governor of Massachusetts slips red light cameras into state budget after camera firms donate $10,245 to lawmakers.
Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick (D) on Thursday outlined his plan to reduce the state's $600 million deficit and help struggling municipalities by, among several other revenue raising measures, installing red light cameras. The governor's proposed fiscal year 2010 budget amendments would eliminate an existing state law forcing police officers to issue traffic citations personally. Under the new legislation, any jurisdiction in the commonwealth could give private, for-profit companies the right to issue $100 traffic tickets.
Although some lawmakers had proposed red light camera authorization bills in the past sessions, the measures have never succeeded. Patrick's quiet inclusion of the measure in must-pass legislation gives the proposal new momentum. Photo enforcement firms encouraged the move by giving lawmakers $10,245 in campaign donations. Australia's Redflex Traffic Systems gave $1800 to Patrick and state legislators, Affiliated Computer Services gave $7445 and Nestor Traffic Systems, now American Traffic Solutions, gave $1000. National Motorists Association researcher John Carr said that introduction of the legislation as part of the budget process was a sign that Patrick's primary concern is monetary.
"Red light cameras have a long track record of making roads more dangerous," Carr told TheNewspaper. "The governor isn't even pretending this is about safety. He is risking the lives of the public out of no motive other than pure greed."
In 2006, residents of Swampscott rejected red light cameras in a town meeting. The town had formed a special committee to investigate whether traffic cameras would benefit the town. It concluded that although such a system would generate $490,000 in revenue, the number of accidents would increase (view report).
Patrick's proposal would enforce payment of the automated citations by suspending the driver's license and vehicle registration of owners who fail to pay after two tickets are sent to his last known address. The suspensions remain in effect until the tickets and late penalties are paid in full, in addition to a $40 reinstatement fee that is split between the municipality and the state. The proposal also allows localities to seize or boot vehicles for non-payment.
Cities implementing a camera program would submit an annual report to the Massachusetts Department of Transportation detailing the number of citations issued, the number found guilty by an administrative hearing and the amount of revenue generated by the program.
Patrick's proposal must be approved by the state House and Senate before becoming law.