The state Senate voted a four-year extension for a red-light-camera program run by the Philadelphia Parking Authority, while rejecting a plan favored by city lawmakers to direct $1.2 million in fines to the city school district.
State Rep. Michael McGeehan, who first proposed that the red-light money go to the schools, said he'll ask the state House to reject the bill - most likely leading to a suspension of the red-light-camera program at the end of December.
"My jaw hit the desk when I saw this [the Senate bill] in writing," McGeehan said. "Not only does it remove the money for the school district, it also takes out several oversight provisions for greater scrutiny of the Parking Authority."
The red-light cameras are now operating at 10 city intersections, most of them along Roosevelt Boulevard. But without legislative agreement on an extension, the program will stop at the end of the year.
The Republican-controlled state Senate voted 49-0 yesterday for a bill to keep the program running though 2011. But its leaders rejected a House-backed proposal to send related traffic fines to the school district instead of the state Motor License Fund.
"We had some discussions with the [Republican] majority trying to guarantee that money would go to the school district," said Sen. Mike Stack, of Northeast Philadelphia, a Democrat. "They basically said the bill wasn't even going to see the light of day with any language that would mandate where funding should go."
Stack said the senators from Philadelphia talked it over and decided that the red-light program was worth keeping, regardless.
"The program has turned out to be saving lives and making roads safer," Stack said. "We want to see [the Parking Authority] start giving money to the kids, but at the same time we want to make the Boulevard safer," Stack said.
In addition, Stack said, "We got some commitments that this isn't going to get the PPA off the hook. We're sort of working with a handshake agreement, but eventually, they will have to forward money from this program to the school district."
Officials at the Parking Authority, who have lobbied heavily for extension of the red-light program, could not be reached for comment. *