Tom MacMillan is certainly correct that red-light cameras are fundamentally a cash grab, but I tend to disagree with his conclusions [River Forest got my state tax refund this year, Viewpoints, May 2].
My first observation is that local government has to pay its bills one way or another, and politicians find it much easier to cover shortfalls by raising fees (garbage collection, water and sewer, etc.) than raising taxes. Red-light tickets are just another fee operating as a back-door tax. If you want a different result, elect politicians who have the guts to do the unpopular, but intellectually honest, thing and raise taxes.
My second observation is that a homeowner who collects significantly fewer than the average number of red-light tickets probably comes out ahead, as opposed to being hit with a real estate tax increase. The more expensive the home, the better the math works. McMansion owners should be thrilled to pay the occasional red-light ticket rather than pony up more taxes to pay for local government. Renters and inexpensive condo owners, not so much.
Red-light tickets are a regressive tax, arguably about as regressive as taxes get.
Answer Book 2018
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