in Houston, Texas
Red light camera cash promised for trauma centers but pilfered by Texas lawmakers to balance books
Monday, Jan 09, 2012, 03:43PM CST
By Mark Lisheron
Making good on a promise of safety, red light camera systems are at this very moment protecting the ability of our elected officials to spend money.

Getting a $46 million cut of red light camera fines collected statewide, the Texas Legislature had at one time declared it would use the money for the noble purpose of funding trauma centers. Instead, the state will keep the funds to pay off some of its debt, according to a story by the Dallas Morning News.

This budgetary viscosity comes as no surprise to opponents of the proliferating red light camera systems, who have long contended they are a municipal and state revenue generating scheme.

"This is just another lie we were told," said Byron Schirmbeck, who petitioned successfully get the cameras removed in Baytown. "They sell the system to the public by saying that all this money will come back to the community, to the trauma centers. But the state is holding on to the money.”

The state tax collectors said the red light lucre is fair game because it is kept in the general revenue fund and necessary to balance the budget as required by the state Constitution.

Which doesn’t exactly explain what took precedence over the law drafted by state Sen. John Carona, R-Dallas, and passed by the Legislature requiring the money be set aside for trauma center assistance.

"In the past, the state has appropriated trauma funds,” Carona’s spokesman, Stephen Polunsky said, “However, the state was in a difficult budgetary situation."
Contact Mark Lisheron at 512-299-2318 or or on Twitter at @marktxwatchdog.

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Photo of money by flickr user cokescroaks, used via a Creative Commons license.
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