NM Ups Red Light Camera Tix From $75 to $100
Facing increased budgetary pressure, the New Mexico state Legislature this week adopted legislation that will increase the cost of red light camera fines by a third, adding millions in extra revenue to state coffers. State Senator Michael S. Sanchez (D-Belen) introduced Senate Bill 519 to extend revenue sharing provisions that previously only applied to the city of Albuquerque to other New Mexico cities. The measure passed unanimously in the state Senate and by a vote of 64-1 in the House.
“Essentially, the increase in fees mostly offsets the new distribution formula in which Albuquerque retains 50 percent of the net receipts,” the Legislative Finance Committee’s fiscal analysis of Senate Bill 519 explained. “The increase of fees from $75 to $100 would yield an approximate annual increase in receipts of $2.3 million to $9.2 million, assuming a similar pattern of traffic violations.”
Currently, cities like Farmington, Las Cruces and Santa Fe plan to install red light cameras. The bill hikes the cost of a photo ticket from $75 to $100, laying out a complicated formula for dividing this money among the private contractors that run the program, the city and the state court system. Las Cruces, for example, will pocket $36 every time that its Australian red light camera vendor, Redflex, issues a ticket. Redflex will then keep a $28 per-ticket bounty.
The state divides its share by sending $23.40 to the court automation fund, $7.20 to the “traffic safety fund” and $5.40 to the judicial education fund. Sending ticket funds to the courts helps to ensure good will among judges in the event of a serious legal challenge to the program.
The bill represents a big win for the city of Albuquerque. A revised revenue sharing formula that applies only to Albuquerque will allocate less from the state’s cut of funds to a DWI Drug Court fund and a Metropolitan Court Bond Guarantee fund. According to the legislative analysis, Albuquerque would pocket an extra $1,462,300 annually based on the formula change alone. The city will pocket an additional $2.3 million from the fine increase.
Governor Bill Richardson (D) is likely to sign the bill into law by April.
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In the end, I think these things may go the way of speed humps. The latest objection I have heard to speed humps is that they are a clear sign that your neighborhood is full of trash that won't be good neighbors. Poor property values to follow. I can see the rest of the neighborhood having the same reaction to that sign and out shouting the moms and dads at city hall.
By keeping the fine low, they are able to deflect serious challenges as nobody will fight it at this level.