The City of Buffalo has long sought the ability to adjudicate traffic tickets issued within city limits and keep the associated revenue. Now it looks like that day might finally arrive.
The State Legislature passed the bill in the waning days of its session and it will be sent to Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo for his signature.
The bill allows the city more revenue, and also allows drivers the ability to argue for a reduced fine.
The city was so confident that the bill would become law this year that it included $2.6 million in revenue from the practice in its budget that begins July 1.
And it’s so confident that it will continue to make money from drivers who violate traffic laws that its four-year financial plan includes $12.5 million in additional revenues over the following three years. The city anticipates collecting an additional $3.5 million in 2015-16 and in 2016-17 and $5.5 million in 2017-18.
“With passage of traffic adjudication, we feel good that the city will be able to meet its budgetary projections,” Mayor Byron W. Brown said Friday.
Plea bargains are allowed in other towns and villages, but had not been allowed in Buffalo.
“The lack of plea bargaining in Buffalo raises insurance rates and is a detriment to city residents and anyone who works in or visits the city,” said Sen. Mark Grisanti, R-Buffalo.
The State Legislature has taken up the bill many times without success, but the Senate passed it on Wednesday and the Assembly passed it on Thursday. Brown and state legislators are hopeful that Cuomo will sign it.
The city has wanted to adjudicate its own tickets, as many other municipalities do, for many years.
The difference this year?
“I think we had strong support from the governor’s office this time,” said Assemblywoman Crystal Peoples-Stokes, D-Buffalo.
If Cuomo signs it, it’s possible the bill would not take effect until April 1, 2015, when a new state fiscal year begins, so it does not interfere with the state’s own revenue estimates.
That delay will hurt the city’s bottom line during its current fiscal year, though the legislation will help it in future years.
During 2012-13, the last full fiscal year, the city collected $600,000 in revenue from traffic violations. The budget for the year that begins July 1 includes $3.2 million in revenue from traffic fines, a jump the city hopes to see once it adjudicates the tickets on its own.
The Common Council sent several messages of support for the bill to Albany.
Bill negotiations also included the labor union that represents state employees who adjudicate the tickets.
If the bill becomes law, the employees will work for the city, but they will retain their salary and benefits, Peoples-Stokes said.