In a surprising move, Colorado’s Governor Bill Ritter plans to divert more than $1.3 million intended to fight drunken driving to help fill the state’s budget gap estimated at $318 million.
A recent Denver Post article stated that the $1.3 million, which is raised by a surcharge imposed on everyone convicted of a DUI offense in Colorado, has been used to “pay overtime for cops working the ‘Heat Is On’ crackdowns on long holiday weekends.”
This is particularly relevant as the recent Labor Day Weekend statistics are being tabulated and due to be released shortly.
For Colorado, their planned campaign for Labor Day weekend was to be the last funded by those grants if the legislature approves Ritter’s plan, and as of Tuesday, Sept. 8th, the decision has yet to be made.
As of now, in Colorado everyone convicted of an alcohol- related traffic offense pays a $90 fine, roughly 1/3 of which goes to the Transportation Department to fund grants for DUI enforcement.
The money is then dispersed throughout the local law enforcement agencies. For 2009 a total of $1.4 million was available to 56 police and sheriff’s departments. Nearly $375,000 is expected to be left after the Labor Day enforcement campaign.
This being the money that Ritter reportedly froze in an executive order.
Larimer County sheriff’s Sgt. Gerald Baker, who is the head of the department’s traffic unit was quoted as saying, “It’s going to have an impact on our numbers, and it’s a little too early to say whether it’s going to have an impact on injury accidents or fatalities.”
In 2008, within the state of Colorado, nearly 40% of all DUI related traffic fatalities occurred within a 24 hour window of a holiday; the same time period which is now under jeopardy of losing heightened patrolling.