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Senate plan would cut into revenue from local traffic fines

Local governments are fighting back against a Senate plan for the state to take a cut of local traffic fines.

It’s an issue with immediate implications for communities that depend heavily on money from traffic tickets. Other localities say it could start a worrisome trend.

The Senate Finance committee approved a measure that would capture a portion of the revenue from local fines and use it for state teacher retirement and other education expenses.

A bulletin from the Virginia Municipal League said if the Senate plan passes, it would encourage the state to take larger and larger chunks of local fines and fees to use for state purposes. “This cash-grab must be stopped now,” the VML said.

A coalition of interests – including the Virginia Association of Counties and the Virginia Sheriffs Association– is scheduled to speak against the proposal at a news conference today. “This is going to be devastating for localities,” said a spokesperson for Sen. Charles Carrico, R-Galax, who is hosting the news conference.

Although it’s not spelled out in any budget document, it appears the Senate plan is aimed at localities such as Hopewell, where a special traffic enforcement unit brings in close to $2 million a year for the city government.

UPDATE: The VML reports local officials joined with police chiefs, sheriffs and law enforcement officers to oppose the diversion of money from local fines.

By Peter Vieth

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