Police question ticket proposal by state to add large surcharge
By Tom Fontaine
Published: Thursday, April 25, 2013, 12:01 a.m.
Top police officials in Western Pennsylvania said they think officers might balk at writing some traffic tickets if state lawmakers approve a plan to add a $100 surcharge to boost transportation funding.
The cost of a ticket for one of the least serious driving infractions would nearly triple to almost $300.
“I don't think we should be doing this on the backs of people getting stopped. Fines and costs are already high enough,” said North Huntingdon police Chief Andrew Lisiecki.
Dozens of legislators and business leaders flanked Sen. John Rafferty, R-Montgomery County, last week when he proposed adding the $100 surcharge to all traffic tickets. He would quadruple to $100 the minimum fine for “failure to obey traffic control devices,” a catch-all infraction that is among the least punitive in the state because it doesn't add points to a motorist's driving record.
Police officials expressed concern about the proposed increases as being excessive and said they could result in cops issuing fewer citations and more warnings — a prospect that could eat away at Rafferty's revenue figures.
Rafferty said the ticket proposals would generate $101 million for Pennsylvania's glaring transportation needs in the first year, part of a plan to eventually increase annual funding by $2.5 billion. His office refused to release data it used to produce its revenue projections. A staffer said the numbers are based on the state's five-year history of collections from traffic violations.
“There's a little bit of guesswork involved” in the projections, said Sharon Ward, president of the left-leaning Pennsylvania Budget and Policy Center, adding that the higher costs figure to act as a deterrent that leads “police to write fewer citations and people to violate the law less.”
Rafferty's plan would increase the overall cost of a “failure to obey” conviction to at least $287, thanks to the surcharge, fine increase and other fees. Infractions such as running a red light or stop sign would go up to at least $212, including the $100 surcharge.
Pittsburgh police Cmdr. Scott Schubert, who oversees the bureau's traffic division, predicted police, including him, might issue fewer citations.
“We all want better roads, but our goal isn't to make money off people. When we issue a citation or a warning, we're trying to improve highway safety and change motorists' behavior, not generate revenue. This seems excessive,” said Schubert. “I may truly think about the additional cost. A lot of people are living paycheck-to-paycheck. I might be more inclined to try to change people's behavior by talking with them,” he said.
“The senator does not believe they are excessive,” said Nate Spade, spokesman for the Senate Transportation Committee that Rafferty chairs. Spade would not speculate on whether the surcharge or fine hike could reduce the number of citations issues or money collected.
Whitehall police Chief Donald Dolfi, president of the Western Pennsylvania Chiefs of Police Association, questioned the wisdom of “a law that was enacted to protect the public and out of everything the actual fine is one of the lowest things you have to pay.”
John Bowman, spokesman for the Wisconsin-based National Motorists Association, called the proposal “heavy-handed.”
Spade said, “Our office will always listen to the concerns of law enforcement. They have not reached out to us to express concern, to my knowledge.”
Spade said the “reception has been very positive. The general consensus is that we have not been investing the dollars necessary to have a modern transportation system that is a needed component for job growth and public safety.”
In February, Gov. Tom Corbett proposed boosting the state's $7 billion annual transportation budget by up to $1.8 billion more by removing the cap on the oil company franchise tax gas wholesalers pay. The Shaler Republican said he didn't want to directly increase driver-related fees because he didn't want to overburden residents.
Many legislators panned the plan as not ambitious enough.
During a stop last week in Robinson, Corbett called Rafferty's plan a “starting point,” adding, “We have to be very cautious about continuing to add to the burden of taxpayers.”
Sen. John Wozniak, D-Johnstown, told the Trib last week that it won't be easy to pass despite support from some Democrats, including him.
Tom Fontaine is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-320-7847 or email@example.com.
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- 1 dead, 1 wounded in shooting at Chartiers party
- Patients denied as donor organs discarded
- Film tax credits bill would bump up state budget
- Castle Shannon man accused of crashing way down Pittsburgh street
- Pope Francis inspires incredible optimism
- Bethel Park man to receive degree from Pitt he earned 64 years ago
- South Fayette parents express dissatisfaction with handling of bullying
- Man found fatally shot in Larimer a mile away from Homewood peace march
- Newsmaker: Rosalind Ross
- South Fayette mother wants case against bullied son to be dropped
- Bullied South Fayette student’s case prompts wiretap overhaul legislation