BATON ROUGE- The Office of Motor Vehicles is owed $1 billion dollars in unpaid fines, according to preliminary numbers obtained by the WBRZ Investigative Unit.
Numbers the Investigative Unit obtained show at least $860 million is owed. A 2015 inflation calculator shows that much money could rebuild the Louisiana State Capitol nine more times.
The fines stem from things like expired drivers licenses and lapses in insurance. The money is very much needed now as state lawmakers are trying to plug a billion-dollar shortfall.
State Police Colonel Mike Edmonson believes the people of Louisiana are suffering because people won't pay.
"Everybody's biggest complaint is they get into a crash and it's someone who doesn't have insurance, or is driving under suspension," Edmonson said. "Then they go 'Now my insurance has to pay for it, and I'm going to pay a penalty,' that's the sad part about it."
Those people who shouldn't be on the road owe unpaid fines to the state. Over a 12-year period from December 2002 until last year, cancellations in insurance accounted for $726 million in uncollected fines. Then there are the following outstanding debts:
Not maintaining insurance- $28 million
Accidents- $6 million
Convictions for things like DWI- $96 million
Expired drivers licenses- $4 million dollars
That's a total of nearly $860 million dollars owed by those who just won't pay up.
"We ought to find an area where we can put this on a website and this is what you owe the state," Edmonson told News 2.
That staggering number has the attention of lawmakers, including state Senator Neil Riser who sits on the Revenue and Fiscal Affairs Committee.
"We're in a budgetary crisis and have people who potentially haven't paid a final judgement due to the state while it's putting the burden on the law abiding tax citizen," Riser said.
Secretary of Revenue Tim Barfield says the State Office of Debt Recovery is in the process of trying to collect the money, but before the state can seize assets from people's bank accounts and tax returns the Attorney General's office has to determine whether or not the appeals process has run out for those who are delinquent.
"From the standpoint of Office of Debt Recovery, we deal with final debt," Barfield said. "What we mean by that is the debtor has no more due process rights to appeal their debt."
Tonight it's unclear if the close to $1 billion will ever be collected. State leaders pledged to take all action necessary to get rid of that staggering number. The Department of Public Safety estimates almost all of the nearly $1 billion owed is final debt, and owed right now.
"When you're looking at a looming deficit within state government, let's collect what's owed to us," Edmonson said.
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