Traffic Fine Relief? Gray Wants to Eliminate 20% 'Tax' on Tickets. - GV Wire - Explore. Explain. Expose
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Traffic Fine Relief? Gray Wants to Eliminate 20% 'Tax' on Tickets.

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A traffic fine is never just a fine in California.
In addition to the monetary penalty and points on a license, the state can assess fees for a court building fund, driver education, and other public needs.


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On top of all that, there’s a state 20% surcharge.
Portrait of Adam Gray
“All sides agree this tax is unjust, indefensible, and long overdue for repeal.”Assemblyman Adam Gray
Assemblyman Adam Gray (D-Merced) wants to roll back the automatic 20% hit.
“During a time of fiscal uncertainty nearly two decades ago, the state imposed a 20% tax on traffic tickets and devoted the funding to prop up the General Fund,” Gray said in a news release Friday morning. “At the time, the state promised this was a temporary measure, but to the surprise of no one eventually made the tax permanent just a few years later.”
Gray is introducing AB 1980 which would repeal the 20% surcharge.

Fines Add Up

For example, on a $35 fine for rolling through a stop sign, an extra $7 is automatically tacked on by the state. Other state and local penalties further inflate the total.
The 20% surcharge went on the books in 2002. A 2015 editorial in the Los Angeles Times estimated that 80% of the total traffic fine is above the base fine.
A similar bill from Gray, AB 1348, passed the Assembly Public Safety Committee last year but died in the Assembly Appropriations Committee.
An Assembly staff analysis of last year’s bill estimated the surcharge pumps about $40 million a year into the General Fund.

State Auditor Blasts Fee Structure

According to Gray, the state auditor recommends eliminating the surcharge. His bill also has the support of law enforcement groups and the ACLU.
In a 2017 report, State Auditor Elaine Howe criticized the fee.
“California’s current approach to funding state and county programs through penalties and fees from criminal and traffic violations has proven problematic both for the programs that rely on those funds and for drivers who receive costly citations,” Howe wrote.
Howe went on to say the system places an unfair burden on low-income drivers.
“All sides agree this tax is unjust, indefensible, and long overdue for repeal,” Gray said.
Gabriel Brickey, running unopposed for Fresno County judge on the March ballot, says he’s likely to work with what the law says when imposing fines.
“There is legislation behind each (court fee with) some thought and consideration. … But obviously, the judge most of the time has the ultimate discretion to impose whatever sentence he or she feels appropriate in the case. I believe I would do the same,” Brickey said.

Curiosity drives David Taub. The award-winning journalist might be shy, but feels mighty with a recorder in his hand. He doesn't see it his job to "hold public officials accountable," but does see it to provide readers (and voters) the information needed to make intelligent choices. Taub has been honored with several writing awards from the California News Publishers Association. He's just happy to have his stories read. Joining GV Wire in 2016, Taub covers politics, government and elections, mainly in the Fresno/Clovis area. He also writes columns about local eateries (Appetite for Fresno), pro wrestling (Off the Bottom Rope), and media (Media Man). Prior to joining the online news source, Taub worked as a radio producer for KMJ and PowerTalk 96.7 in Fresno. He also worked as an assignment editor for KCOY-TV in Santa Maria, California, and KSEE-TV in Fresno. He has also worked behind the scenes for several sports broadcasts, including the NCAA basketball tournament, and the Super Bowl. When not spending time with his family, Taub loves to officially score Fresno Grizzlies games. Growing up in the San Francisco Bay Area, Taub is a die-hard Giants and 49ers fan. He graduated from the University of Michigan with dual degrees in communications and political science. Go Blue! You can contact David at 559-492-4037 or at Send an Email