Posted on Monday, September 22 at 5:21pm | By Bob Egelko

A bill to add $35 to fines for traffic violations in school zones sailed through both houses of the Legislature without any opposing votes. The money was earmarked for school safety programs. Who could possibly be against that?

Gov. Jerry Brown. And he had a reason.

In his veto Friday of SB1151 by Sen. Anthony Cannella, R-Ceres (Stanislaus County), Brown said the legislation would actually increase the cost of tickets in school zones not by $35, but by $129 — from $237 to $366. That’s because, as Cannella’s office acknowledged, every boost in traffic fines triggers an increase in state and local government fees, including a fee for court construction, that are charged to the driver. Counties and courts have encountered shortfalls in state funding and try to make up for it with surcharges on traffic violators. And the extra amounts they would have tacked onto SB1151 — which weren’t mentioned in the text of the bill — wouldn’t have gone to school safety programs.

“Increasing traffic fines as the method to pay transportation fund activities is a regressive increase that affects poor people disproportionately,” Brown said in his veto message. “Making safety improvements in school zones is obviously important, but not by increasing traffic fines.”

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