By on August 19, 2011

The city council in Tampa, Florida this month began deciding how it would spend revenue from the red light camera program expected to go online next month. Officials calculated that the automated ticketing machines would bring in an extra $2 million a year, an important amount for a city facing a $34.5 million budget deficit.

Police Chief Jane Castor had proposed to the city in March that it sign a contract with American Traffic Solutions. Castor and members of her department personally profit from any ticketing system linked to an increase in automobile insurance rates. This is so because the state imposes a tax on car insurance that is deposited as a “state contribution” in each municipality’s police pension fund. Based on city figures, the 0.85 percent tax pumped an extra $8,158,217 into Tampa police pensions from a total of $1 billion in added insurance costs paid by Tampa drivers between 1999, when the current system was imposed, and 2009.

The primary source of that premium increase has been the boost in the number of traffic tickets issued by Tampa police. In 1999, the city wrote 30,000 citations. Just four years later, there were 87,000 tickets — and a 40.6 percent increase in insurance premiums. By 2005, the ticket total was a whopping 140,000.

The extra cash reduced the amount individual members had to contribute to the pension fund, leaving officers with more take-home pay. In 1999, officers paid 6.45 percent of their salary into the retirement fund — about equal to the average rate paid over the past 27 years. Thanks to the influx of new cash, the rate dropped to 1.8 percent in 2002. In 2006 it was 1.18 percent. Stock market turmoil and investments turned sour, however, raised the contribution required significantly above the average in 2004, 2005 and 2011.

The Tampa Police Department has been sued over traffic ticket quotas and the mandatory practice of issuing a traffic ticket at the scene of any accident, even if the attending officer had no way to determine fault. By 2008, the lawsuit forced Tampa Police to change its ticketing policy and the insurance premium tax declined accordingly in 2008 and 2009.

Comprehensive, independent studies show red light cameras can cause a an increase in the total number of accidents at the intersections where they are installed (view studies). This would result in an increase in police pension funding, according to a 2008 red light camera study by the University of South Florida.

“Increases in crashes can raise the risk rating of drivers in a community, which can lead to disproportionately higher automobile insurance premiums, and, subsequently, rising profits for insurers,” the researchers concluded (view study).

[Courtesy: Thenewspaper.com]

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17 Comments on “Tampa, Florida Incentive to Increase Automobile Insurance Rates...”


  • avatar
    GS650G

    I used to live in Florida, no more.
    ATS is probably thrilled to get a contract on the table in a major area like Tampa after the trouble in Houston
    On top of all this you have a devastated housing market, poor job prospects, and nasty traffic jams all over the place.

    The great thing about this country is there are so many other states and places to move to, providing options for the masses.

  • avatar
    Contrarian

    Just more evidence that cancers like ATS and Redflex need to be dealt with at the state level, as they did in South Carolina. Greedy, corrupt, and self-serving local officials can’t be trusted to not sodomize the taxpayers that they supposedly work for.

    • 0 avatar
      EdSTS2000

      Agreed. I live in the Tampa outskirts (but not in the city proper), and this is a naked revenue grab. I do make it a point to go into Tampa and do as little business there as possible. Unfortunately Tampa PD (and city government) definitely puts revenue first and everything else way down the list.

      There was a bill in the Florida legislature to kill red light cameras statewide, but it died in the 2010 session. Time to reintroduce it…

  • avatar
    jjster6

    That’s why they are called pigs.

  • avatar
    stryker1

    As someone who believes there’s a role for government and who still refers to tea partiers as tea baggers let me say: You pigs are not helping!

  • avatar
    CJinSD

    The irony is that this is exactly the same as advocating for higher energy taxes to get the working classes off the streets, funnel money to corrupt politicians and their entrenched backers, and make life easier for inept Detroit executives. Perhaps not exactly in that it won’t help incompetents in Detroit with their production planning, but it is a crutch for bad management of Florida cities.

  • avatar
    Robert.Walter

    “This is so because the state imposes a tax on car insurance that is deposited as a “state contribution” in each municipality’s police pension fund.”

    A corrupt bargain and an incentive conflict of interest if ever I saw one.

    I had a discussion with an IRS Revenue Officer that I know recently, and asked him if he, or his management are incentivised to bring in maximal revenue by the strictest application of the rulebook (they call it the IRM, Internal Revenue Manual). He told me that that practice had been discontinued in 1998 because it led to improper behaviours within the organization which hurt the image of the Service and complicated its task (which is to have compliant taxpayers paying what they honestly owe.)

    I say that the states need to look to their revenue streams and ask if they have corrupt bargains such as this, and then to start to put taxation plans into place that maintain the level of services, through proper tax, without resorting to such corrupt back-door shenanigans.

    Things like this, more than high transparent taxation, contribute to an overall loss of confidence and respect for our public leaders and constabulary.

    • 0 avatar
      ClutchCarGo

      “I say that the states need to look to their revenue streams and ask if they have corrupt bargains such as this, and then to start to put taxation plans into place that maintain the level of services, through proper tax, without resorting to such corrupt back-door shenanigans.”

      And how are local officials supposed to do this when absolutely ANY mention of increasing taxes to pay for govt services is met by screaming opposition by Tea Partiers?

      • 0 avatar
        fvfvsix

        Really?
        You attempt to turn a discussion about a deal clearly intended to increase TPD officer take-home pay while maintaining their pension fund into a rant about the Tea Party?

        Dude, it’s all Kool-aid. The same flavor, even. Stop it with the party crap.

      • 0 avatar
        ClutchCarGo

        The discussion at hand was how local govt should stop using corrupt, conflict of interest type revenue sources in favor of honest taxation, so I am hardly “turning” the discussion by pointing out how impossible it has become for govt to meet public demand for services thru taxation. And it’s not a “Tea Party rant” to note that a big reason taxation has become so impossible to discuss is that Tea Party members (among other like-minded citizens) literally have taken to screaming their objections to any discussion of taxation at council and town hall meetings. I’m all for an honest, civil discussion of balancing services with revenues, but when any discussion of revenue is “off the table” before the discussion begins is not honest, and all too often lately is not civil.

      • 0 avatar
        fvfvsix

        The entirety of the tax is paid into Police pension funds around the state. Does this really help maintain service levels?

        I’d posit that other than being a mandadated-at-gunpoint incentive for police officers to stay on the job, it doesn’t really help the citizenry.

        Now, I’d agree with your sentiment if the tax actually went toward hiring more officers or equipment purchases.

      • 0 avatar
        FleetofWheel

        ” but when any discussion of revenue is “off the table” before the discussion begins is not honest, and all too often lately is not civil. ”

        You trying to set the terms of the debate to be that taxes must go up and by how much is just as obstinate.

        Using the bland term ‘revenue’ when you really mean ‘raise taxes’ is almost as silly as spelling out t-a-x-e-s as if no one knows what you mean.

        You can always donate more of your own money to whatever cause you believe should have increased funding until you can force your neighbors to do so.

      • 0 avatar
        ClutchCarGo

        “You trying to set the terms of the debate to be that taxes must go up and by how much is just as obstinate.”

        I never said that taxes MUST go up, merely that since taxes and fees (AKA revenue) are half of the balanced budget subject, to have a necessary debate about reaching balance we must be allowed to address BOTH spending and revenue. The impossibility of mentioning revenue, coupled with the public’s desire for addl services (AKA spending) leads to the kind of miserable hidden taxation like the insurance/pension system in FL. I’m not defending that system at all, I’m pointing out that such vile arrangements are the nearly inevitable result of an environment that severely punishes anyone who tries to call for addl taxes to cover what the public says that it wants.

        And just as I’m free to supplement funding to services that I deem valuable (which I do for my local library and FD), you are free to decline govt services in order to help balance the budget. Perhaps you would like to handle those teens drag racing thru your neighborhood yourself? Or pitch in to put out that fire next door that threatens to spread to your house, instead of calling the FD?

  • avatar
    ravenchris

    Speaking as a Floridian, we suffer greatly at the hands of politicians who place their careers and political parties ahead of the well-being of the electorate.
    Please remember to protect yourself and the future by not reelecting incumbents.

  • avatar
    gslippy

    This may sound naive and foolish but… I’m shocked. Seems like the legal system and/or the voters ought to correct this kind of kickback system right now.

  • avatar
    iantm

    I fled Tampa back in 04 before the boom went supersonic. Moved to Pittsburgh where the housing market didn’t crash. Mainly because the area has had more people leave the area than come in – leading to a nice low cost of living. Factor in federal income tax deductions for state and local taxes – and my I pay less in taxes each year despite the fact that Florida has no state or local income tax. Oh, and my car insurance premiums dropped to 1/3 of what they were in Tampa.

  • avatar
    mnm4ever

    I live in the Tampa Bay area, and this place is chock full of slimy politicians who will do anything they can to pad thier own pockets. Its corrupt at every level, the school boards, the tax appraisers, county commissioners, everywhere.

    It comes as no surprise to me that when metro areas all over the country are dropping red light cameras like hot potatoes over the backlash, that Tampa would decide this was a good time to ramp up and flood the area with them. This is also the town where they purposely shortened the yellow lights to make tickets go up at thier existing red-light cameras.

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