Iowa could have a huge pot of potential revenue to help weather one of its worst budget crunches – a record $518 million in unpaid court fines that grows by the month, reports the Des Moines Register. Tens of thousands of Iowans owe the state fines for offenses ranging from speeding to murder. But persistent problems with collections, combined with budget cuts to the court and justice systems, make the fines harder to collect, state officials say.
A state report issued late last month found the many ways the state tries to collect unpaid court fines – through clerks of court, county attorneys, tax collections and the state’s own collection efforts – might actually contribute to the problem. A consultant hired to suggest ways of reorganizing state government estimates that changing the collection methods used by counties and the state could raise $22.2 million in a year’s time and $111 million over five years.