Should traffic fines stay in the community where they are collected, or flow to the state?
Local police and sheriffs say that question is at the heart of a "money grab" by Virginia lawmakers.
More than 50 officers from agencies across the state travelled to Richmond Wednesday for a news conference organized by Grayson County Senator Bill Carrico. They were protesting a plan they say will take away valuable funding and put pubic safety at risk. A proposed budget amendment would funnel a portion of the revenue from local traffic fines and fees to the state.
Police departments and sheriff's offices say they depend on the money for a variety of activities.
Richard Vaughan is the Sheriff of Grayson County. "We've seen unfunded mandates from the state for the past four or five years since I was elected," Vaughan told WDBJ7, "and now they're trying to take what little we get from the local motor vehicle ordinances."
Danville Sheriff Mike Mondul agreed. "I think localities have gradually stepped up where they can, but there's only so much belt-tightening you can do," Mondul said in an interview. "We've already seen positions fall by the wayside. That's people, people's jobs we're talking about, law enforcement jobs."
Chesterfield County Senator John Watkins says the Virginia Constitution calls for traffic fines and fees to go into the state's literary loan fund. "The money is used to subsidize teacher salaries," Watkins said. "It's used to build schools in poorer areas of the Commonwealth, and it's also used at times to supplement VRS (Virginia Retirement System) payments."
For communities that bring in substantial revenue from traffic fines assessed on local ordinances, Watkins says his proposal would return about a third to the state.