A key state senator says it may be time to raise court fees to raise more money to run the state’s court system. Senate Co-Leader Mike Gronstal, a democrat from Council Bluffs, says raising the surcharge on criminal fines and penalties may be the way to go. Gronstal says a one-hundred-dollar speeding ticket today actually costs one-hundred-30 because there’s a 30 percent surcharge. “I think there’d probably be pretty broad public support for the idea that those that break the law are the ones that pay for the costs of the court system,” Gronstal says. Gronstal says a 10 percent increase in the court surcharge could raise about eight million dollars. Court officials are asking for about eight million more in the next budgeting year. Chief Justice Louis Lavorato says he’s open to the idea of raising the court surcharge. “Anytime they’ve got a proposal like that that would help the court system, we’re going to listen,” Lavorato says. The chief justice does have some reservations, though, as court surcharges are also assessed when Iowans, for example, file for divorce or file other lawsuits. Lavorato says he’s always concerned that raising fees will make it tougher for people to file court cases. “Somewhere down the line you’re going to be effecting access,” Lavorato says. But Lavorato says his mind is open to Gronstal’s idea because he doesn’t want to turn down extra money Governor Tom Vilsack supports providing more money to the state’s courts, but he’s not sure raising court fees is the right way to do it. Vilsack says his concern is that fees will be raised, but the revenue raised will be diverted to other areas of state government. He says that’s happened in the past when court fees were hiked.
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