People caught speeding or convicted of other crimes may soon have to pay an extra 15 percent to 20 percent surcharge if state officials get their way.
As he did last year, Gov. Norm Bangerter has included $500,000 in his budget recommendations to pay counties for the cost of housing prisoners convicted of breaking state laws. This year, however, the money probably will not come from the state's general fund, said Dave Walsh, administrative officer for the governor's Commission on Criminal and Juvenile Justice.Criminal fines already have a 25 percent surcharge that is used to build a fund to pay restitution to crime victims. The new proposed surcharge would be in addition to that.
But the plan faces strong opposition from counties and cities. Mostly, they are angry that the governor included only $500,000 for jail costs. Salt Lake County officials said $2 million would be more fair.
County officials also worry that the surcharge would not really bring in any more money. Third District Judge David Young said he generally computes fines so that they add up to the same amount no matter what the surcharge is.
"If the fine is $500 and there's a 25 percent surcharge, I'll give them a $400 fine instead," he said. "A surcharge is a poor way to go."
Salt Lake County Commission Chairman Mike Stewart said a surcharge does not seem like a good way to raise money.
"If judges are going to reduce the fines, it's clear what's going to happen," he said.
Walsh said the surcharge would likely raise much more than the $500,000 for county jails. An extra $600,000 would go to the attorney general's office and about $1 million would go to the court administrator's office to pay for jury and witness fees.
For years, Salt Lake County has been trying unsuccessfully to get the state and local cities to pay for the cost of housing prisoners in the county jail.