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Budget proposal would expand program lowering traffic fines for low-income qualifiers

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SACRAMENTO, Calif. (KTXL) -- The governor's latest budget proposal calls for statewide expansion of a pilot program that restructures the amounts collected from traffic fines, factoring in a person's ability to pay.

So far, 1,500 low-income qualifiers have already had fees dropped by 50%.

"They charge you so much for a fine but if you don't have the money to pay that fine in the first place, what is doubling it gonna do? That's just gonna put you in a tougher position," ticketed driver Jason McDaniel said.

At the Judicial Council, Martin Hoshino oversees the policies of California courts, like judicial discretion to reduce mandated fines, which the state's ability to collect has decreased over the last 10 years.

"It went from a height of $2 billion down to $1.4 billion," Hoshino said.

A person's ability to pay could be based solely on their income being within 125% of the poverty line.

“Installment payments or using community service to address some of that debt," said Anita Lee, principal fiscal and policy analyst for the State Legislative Analyst’s Office.

Lee's non-partisan agency is in the middle of reviewing the merit of the governor's current proposal.

When the current four-county pilot was just a proposal, Lee said, "one of the things we did note that a greater use of ability to pay could potentially increase the likelihood that fines and fees were actually collected and paid."

"If you're charging more and you're charging too much, you might not be getting anything,” Hoshino said. “So if you right-size it and it's proportioned to someone's ability to pay, you might get more than nothing."

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