State and local governments are looking for ways to fill budget gaps -- through tax increases, spending cuts or some combination of both. Or, in the case of some local governments, through increased fines for traffic violations.
In this week's podcast, Tax Foundation Staff Economist Kail Padgitt, Ph.D., interviews Dr. Michael Makowsky, an assistant professor of economics at Towson University, on factors that affect traffic citations. Makowsky co-authored a paper titled, "Political Economy at Any Speed: What Determines Traffic Citations?" which found that out-of-town drivers who are stopped in a municipality facing budget problems are much more likely to get a ticket.
The study looked at Massachusetts, which -- due to Proposition 2 ½ -- limits how much total tax revenue a town can raise each year, as well as how much a town can raise its revenue cap each year. Proposed increases are subject to voter approval. Makowsky's research found that in towns where the override vote failed, drivers who were pulled over were 11 percentage points more likely to get a ticket.
"If you hold everything else constant, if you have a 50-50 chance of getting a ticket if you got pulled over in a town that had an override failing vote, you had a 61% chance of getting a ticket," he says.
Those chances increase by as much as 26 percentage points if the driver is from out of town.
See the full paper here. Makowsky co-authored a related paper, "More Tickets, Fewer Accidents: How Cash-Strapped Towns Make for Safer Roads," which looks at the relationship among budget shortfalls, the number of traffic citations and traffic safety.