Colorado governor restores funds for DUI enforcement

| 9/3/2009

Times are tough. That is no surprise to anyone. A trucker, the federal government, a state or local government – each is looking for ways to make ends meet with income that doesn’t stretch as far as necessary.

What could surprise some is what Colorado Gov. Bill Ritter was considering to help make ends meet. To ease his state’s budget crisis, the governor briefly planned to pull funding this year for drunken driving enforcement, including “The Heat is On” campaign.

But nearly as soon as the plan was revealed it was abandoned. The Ritter administration cited public-safety concerns raised by law enforcement.

The DUI enforcement program initially was among the casualties included in Ritter’s executive order, telling state agencies to cut nearly $320 million by the end of next spring to plug the state’s budget shortfall. Ritter had his eyes on diverting $1.3 million from the program to help trim the budget gap.

Critics were not happy about the proposal, which would result in fewer law enforcement officers on the roads to spot drunken drivers around the holidays. The money for the program comes from a portion of the $90 fines applied to people convicted of alcohol-related offenses. That revenue is used to pay overtime for state troopers, sheriffs and police officers to work on DUI crackdowns during holiday weekends.

While money for the program is secure through the end of the year, what will happen in 2010 is uncertain.

Among the items still on the governor’s hit list is the state’s vehicle fleet. Ritter wants to reduce the state commuter program, which allows certain state employees to use state vehicles for transportation between work and home. Cutting the program would save the state $475,000.

To view other legislative activities of interest for Colorado in 2009, click here.

– By Keith Goble, state legislative editor

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