As the state faces massive deficits, some Illinois counties are turning to unpaid parking tickets from as long as three decades ago to offset their own budget shortfalls and dwindling state support.
According to reports in the Illinois Policy Institute and the Chicago Tribune, a handful of counties have enlisted the help of collection agencies to track down this potential source of revenue. Some of the tickets have been in limbo since the 1980s, as the Tribune reported.
Cook County GOP Chair Sean Morrison questions the wisdom of using expensive collection agencies to bolster tax revenue.
“There will be a significant overhead cost for administerial duties that will be required to back-search and collect these obscure tickets,” Morrison explained during an interview with the West Cook News. “So I don't believe it will reap any real short-term financial benefits and it definitely will not be a long-term fiscal policy to rely on.”
To pay for collections, some counties are adding a 30 percent fee onto the ticket price, according to the Illinois Policy Institute.
However, that still doesn’t address the issue of accuracy. Jefferson County resident Melanie Little told the Tribune she was contacted about an alleged ticket from 1983, a time when she was too young to drive.
“I was left thinking, damn the state of Illinois is so broke … they’re having to track down people from the ’80s to pay traffic tickets,” Little told The Tribune.
Although the tactic has prompted complaints to the Illinois attorney general, Morrison sees a bigger problem with the practice.
“It boils down to generating more revenue for state government to continue its terrible spending habits,” he said. “Until we see substantial budget and pension reforms then there really isn't any upside” to tax increases proposed by Gov. J.B. Pritzker or local entities.
But it’s uncertain how likely those reforms will be after last year’s mid-term elections replaced a Republican with a progressive-tax Democrat in the governor’s mansion.
“Regardless of where the tax increase hit, the Democrats' tax and spend philosophy for Illinois is fundamentally flawed,” Morrison said. “It has destroyed the fiscal condition of the City of Chicago and the State of Illinois along with other governmental bodies. Any new tax policy they introduce that is not attached to a fiscal structural reform is bad policy. Period.”