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Red ink in the rearview mirror: local fiscal conditions and the issuance of traffic tickets

  • Thomas A. Garrett
  • Gary A. Wagner

Municipalities have revenue motives for enforcing traffic laws in addition to public safety motives because many traffic offenses are punished via fines and the issuing municipality often retains the revenue. Anecdotal evidence supports this revenue motive. We empirically test this revenue motive using panel data on North Carolina counties. We find that significantly more tickets are issued in the year following a decline in revenue, but the issuance of traffic tickets does not decline in years following revenue increases. Our results suggest that tickets are used as a revenue generation tool rather than solely a means to increase public safety. ; Formerly titled: Are traffic tickets countercyclical?

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Paper provided by Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis in its series Working Papers with number 2006-048.

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Date of creation: 2007
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Handle: RePEc:fip:fedlwp:2006-048
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  1. Mankiw, N. Gregory, 1987. "The optimal collection of seigniorage : Theory and evidence," Journal of Monetary Economics, Elsevier, vol. 20(2), pages 327-341, September.
  2. Oates, Wallace E, 1985. "Searching for Leviathan: An Empirical Study," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 75(4), pages 748-57, September.
  3. Poterba, James M & Rotemberg, Julio J, 1990. "Inflation and Taxation with Optimizing Governments," Journal of Money, Credit and Banking, Blackwell Publishing, vol. 22(1), pages 1-18, February.
  4. Lave, Charles A, 1985. "Speeding, Coordination, and the 55 MPH Limit," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 75(5), pages 1159-64, December.
  5. Thomas A. Garrett, 2002. "Aggregated vs. disaggregated data in regression analysis: implications for inference," Working Papers 2002-024, Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis.
  6. Sobel, Russell S. & Holcombe, Randall G., 1996. "Measuring the Growth and Variability of Tax Bases over the Business Cycle," National Tax Journal, National Tax Association, vol. 49(4), pages 535-52, December.
  7. Graves, Philip E. & Lee, Dwight R. & Sexton, Robert L., 1993. "Speed variance, enforcement, and the optimal speed limit," Economics Letters, Elsevier, vol. 42(2-3), pages 237-243.
  8. Tim Besley, 2002. "Political institutions and policy choices: evidence from the United States," IFS Working Papers W02/13, Institute for Fiscal Studies.
  9. Polinsky, A Mitchell & Shavell, Steven, 1992. "Enforcement Costs and the Optimal Magnitude and Probability of Fines," Journal of Law and Economics, University of Chicago Press, vol. 35(1), pages 133-48, April.
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