New York Governor David A. Patterson (D) is joining a number of other states in promoting the use of freeway speed cameras as a way to address his state’s massive $7.4 billion budget shortfall. Patterson’s budget proposal, released yesterday, includes a plan to deploy fifty photo radar vans to generate $96 million in net profit for the general fund by 2012.
“The mistakes of the past — squandering surpluses, papering over deficits, relying on irresponsible fiscal gimmicks to finance unsustainable spending increases — have led us to a financial breaking point,” Patterson wrote. “There are no more easy answers…. The only way we can emerge from this crisis is through shared sacrifice.”
Patterson’s budget describes the use of speed cameras on freeways as a “revenue action” that does not constitute a tax increase or a fee increase. His announcement came after that of California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger (R) who earlier this month launched an initiative to use five-hundred cameras to issue tickets worth up to $325 each to generate $398 million in profit, not counting the money split with the private vendor that will run the program.
New York’s more modest plan involves issuing cheaper $50 tickets on the freeway and $100 tickets in so-called “work zones” where speed limits have been lowered. Forty of the cameras will be positioned in the pricier work zones — with no requirement that actual work be done in the zone — and ten cameras will be positioned on other high-volume highways. Patterson’s plan also includes a provision guaranteed to create a reduction in collision statistics following installation of the cameras.
“[The budget will] increase the Law Enforcement Motor Vehicle Accident Report threshold from $1000 to $3000 and eliminate the requirement that motorists also file accident reports,” Patterson’s proposal states.
With fewer reports, the new statistics will show fewer accidents in the “after” period, even if the actual number of collisions remains unchanged. This change and the speed camera program itself will require the approval of the New York State Assembly which approved a massive expansion of red light cameras in 2009.