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D.C. rakes in $85m from traffic cameras

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The District took in nearly $85 million in its most recent fiscal year from its sprawling network of speed and red-light cameras, shattering its previous record and inflaming an ongoing debate about ticket-based fines.

According to statistics from the District’s chief financial officer, the city collected $84.9 million in “automated traffic enforcement” revenues through the end of September, when the city’s 2012 fiscal year concluded.

In the 2011 fiscal year, the District logged about $55 million in traffic camera fines, a record at the time.

The final 2012 fiscal year statistics, which came days after several D.C. lawmakers introduced a measure to reduce speed camera fines, intensified the prospects for an end-of-the-year legislative clash.

Ward 2 D.C. Councilman Jack Evans said it would be a challenge to persuade lawmakers to slash fines now that they’ve been on the books for years.

“It’s going to be tough,” Evans said. “When the fines were established, there should have been more discussion about them.”

While the bill has drawn support from nearly a half-dozen legislators, Mayor Vincent Gray, who has dismissed allegations that the cameras are essentially ATMs for the District government, has not yet embraced the measure.

Gray has said he would need to evaluate how much a reduction in fines would cut at the city’s bottom line and that he was working on his own proposals to pitch to lawmakers.

But he also hit back hard at the allegation that the cameras are merely present to generate millions of dollars in cash.

“The public safety aspect for me is first and foremost,” Gray told The Washington Examiner on Thursday. “We didn’t necessarily see it as a revenue raiser because it raised more money than we thought it was going to raise. Obviously, the money will help to do other things in the city, but my priority will continue to be on public safety.”

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