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Archive for Sunday, April 29, 2001

Traffic fines bill included in budget fix

April 29, 2001

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— A proposal that has cleared the House may be the legislative equivalent of a speed trap.

The bill would increase fines for traffic violations, tripling the portion of each fine that the state collects. The state's fine for driving 45 in a 35 mph zone, for example, would increase to $30 from $10. In all, the measure would raise $16 million a year for the state.

It's one of several bills lawmakers are discussing as the 2001 session nears its end. They are trying to close a $205 million gap between expected revenues and spending already approved for the state's 2002 fiscal year, which begins July 1.

"That's probably going to be mentioned in our mix," Senate Ways and Means Chairman Steve Morris, R-Hugoton, said Saturday.

Both chambers have approved appropriations bills that eliminate the hole in the budget. But some of provisions in each plan require permanent changes in state law and therefore separate bills.

The House approved the bill increasing traffic fines on a 64-61 vote Friday, sending it to the Senate. On separate 63-62 votes, the House also passed bills to:

l Allow the Department of Transportation to issue $277 million more in bonds to help finance highway construction projects over the next eight years. Using bonds would free up $20 million in tax dollars in fiscal 2002.

l Suspend payments to a fund that provides benefits to the families of state employees who are injured or disabled on the job, to save $9.2 million in fiscal 2002. Legislators say the fund has more than enough money in it.

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