An effort to restrict the use of money generated by red light traffic cameras has failed at the Iowa Statehouse.
The Senate debated a proposal Tuesday that would have siphoned the revenue for the state’s use, not the cities where the cameras are located.
Senator Mark Chelgren, a Republican from Ottumwa, says the money would go into Iowa’s road use tax fund. “It would take out the motivation to do it for any reason other than public safety which is what after all this is supposed to be for,” Chelgren says.
Traffic cameras that record red light runners and speeding violations can bring in big bucks. Civil libertarians complain the cameras violate the public’s right to privacy and claim they’re simply a cash grab by local governments.
Cedar Rapids collected nearly $3.5-million in fines in the first year alone. Chelgren says using the money for statewide road repairs would ensure cities don’t put up the cameras simply to make money.
“As opposed to going for whatever individual profit-making incentive might be there and to eliminate that as any kind of excuse,” he says. “The money going from any ticketing done electronically with regards to photo cameras would instead go to the road use tax fund which then can be used to improve our roadways and make them safer thereby winning all the way around.”
Seven Iowa communities use red light traffic cameras: Cedar Rapids, Clive, Council Bluffs, Davenport, Des Moines, Muscatine and Sioux City. “Everyone wins with this because it is truly at this point for safety,” he says. Chelgren introduced his proposal during Senate debate on a transportation budget bill but Democrats ruled it wasn’t relevant.
Senate President Jack Kibbie refused to allow a vote on Chelgren’s proposal.
The talk about the cameras came as the Iowa Senate continues to slog through a $5.9 billion dollar state budget in hopes of moving toward wrapping up the before the fiscal year ends next week. So far the Senate has approved spending measures for the state’s departments of transportation, economic development, cultural affairs, and the court system..
There’s been little debate as leaders from both parties continue to work on a budget deal behind closed doors. There should be more action today when the Senate takes up the so-called standings bill which includes funding for preschool and K-12 education, as well as property tax reform.