Non-profit think tank points to 10-year downward revenue trend, volatility of fines and fees collection, and mere 20-percent collection rate for debt sent to collection agencies
Lawmakers must look to long-term, stable revenue raising solutions and an end to driver’s license suspension as a compliance tool
ORLANDO, Fla. - The unstable nature of court fines and fees collection, which is susceptible to policy changes in other state agencies, natural disasters, and economic disruptions, is an unreliable source of revenue, according to a new report from the non-partisan Florida Policy Institute.
The report, “The Consequences of a Broken Revenue System: Relying on Fines and Fees is Harming Florida’s Clerks of Courts,” also highlighted that the state’s use of driver’s license suspensions disproportionately harms Floridians of color and those with low income. In counties where families have negative residual income — meaning they have no income left over after paying for typical living expenses or have living expenses that far exceed earned income — three out of every five license suspension notices issued go into effect, according to FPI’s analysis.
Additionally, the report found that:
“State lawmakers must look to long-term, sustainable revenue solutions, like streamlining enforcement of online sales tax collection and closing corporate tax loopholes, to solve the clerks of courts’ funding woes,” said Sadaf Knight, CEO of FPI. “The clerks’ over-reliance on fines and fees collection, coupled with ineffective compliance methods that trap low-income Floridians in a cycle of debt, are in dire need of an overhaul.”
"Relying on fines and fees to fund vital services like Florida's Clerks of Court is penny-wise and pound-foolish," said Ashley Thomas, Florida Director of the Fines and Fees Justice Center. "Our state’s inefficient fines and fees policies are costing all of us. Fines and fees are an unreliable source of government revenue and collection practices are costly. It’s a lose-lose situation for both Floridians and our state government."
FPI’s policy recommendations include:
The report, authored by Tachana Joseph-Marc, policy analyst at FPI, analyzed the annual budgets of Florida’s clerks of courts and county-level data on both driver’s license suspensions and fines and fees collections.
FPI is an independent, nonpartisan and nonprofit organization dedicated to advancing state policies and budgets that improve the economic mobility and quality of life for all Floridians.