Cities in Ohio need traffic-camera revenue

Last November, Repub- lican state Reps. Bill Seitz and Jim Butler introduced House Bill 410. The bill will require cities to file all traffic-camera cases in municipal court, while also reducing the amount of money issued to communities from the state’s Local Government Fund by the same amount that they collect in traffic camera revenue. It passed the Ohio House last week and now goes to the Senate.

In 2015, the Ohio Supreme Court ruled that a similar bill, also sponsored by Rep. Seitz, was unconstitutional because it violated the self-governing powers granted to municipalities, known as home-rule authority.

The problem with HB 410 is that it serves to punish municipalities that had to seek out other revenue sources because of continuous cuts to their Local Government Fund allocation.

Over the last decade, Ohio counties and communities have lost nearly $1.2 billion in revenue from cuts to the Local Government Fund and estate tax.

Two local cities using the cameras, Youngstown and Girard, have lost a combined $2.2 million through these reductions. And the problem is not improving; our current state budget appropriates just $381.8 million to the fund, a full 45 percent decline since Gov. John Kasich took office.

The cuts have forced cities to tighten their fiscal belts, and when that is not enough to maintain vital services like police, fire, and road maintenance, communities have had to increase local taxes, place levies on the ballot, or come up with new revenue sources like speed cameras. Meanwhile, the state “rainy day” fund now holds over $2 billion.

Republican, Democrat, or independent, we can all agree that Ohio municipalities are hurting. Contact your elected officials and urge them to reject H.B. 410, and to tap into the “rainy day” fund instead. Ohio’s municipalities need some relief.

Brian Pearson, Youngstown