Tuesday, Sep 19, 2017
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EDITORIAL

Traffic fines vs. taxes

State Rep. Tom Patton (R., Strongsville) is seemingly on a crusade to save scofflaws money and make innocent taxpayers pay instead.

His main target is Linndale, a village along the half-hour drive from Strongsville to Cleveland. He says Linndale managed to get almost 80 percent of its 2013 revenue from traffic-camera tickets.

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So he has introduced a bill to forbid communities of fewer than 200 people, such as Linndale, from using traffic cameras. He has introduced a separate bill to forbid localities without their own fire or ambulance service from using traffic cameras. And he’s introduced two other bills to limit how many camera tickets localities can issue and how much money they can collect that way.

Mr. Patton, who comes from a police family, argues that cameras don’t deter violators. That, he says, takes police, who have a visible presence and who give tickets on the spot instead of sending them in the mail.

Linndale should be commended for its traffic-camera program, not condemned. When local governments get revenue from traffic fines instead of taxes, they shift the burden from the innocent toward the guilty. If Linndale is getting almost four-fifths of its revenue from camera tickets, its taxpayers are getting a nearly 80 percent discount on the cost of their government.

That’s a great deal.

No doubt some of the ticketed drivers don’t live in Linndale. But aside from any who are ticketed by mistake — who can dispute the tickets — these are people who violated the traffic laws. If they did not want to pay traffic tickets, they should not have earned them.

Mr. Patton is probably right that individual cameras and the tickets they issue don’t deter drivers as much as visible police do. But seeing a police officer reminds drivers to obey the laws when officers are present. Teaching drivers to expect traffic cameras, even when they can’t see them, could improve their behavior on all the roads.

And those who don’t learn can pay more toward government services, so that law-abiding citizens can pay less.

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