Parking Violation

A state office is attempting to collect about $522.3 million in outstanding debts, officials said Wednesday.

That’s the amount being sought by the state Office of Debt Recovery, part of the Department of Revenue. The office has collected about $197 million since the 2015 fiscal year, according to a presentation to the House Appropriations Committee.

Most of the money is owed to state agencies, particularly the Office of Motor Vehicles, though it also includes debts to municipalities and higher education institutions.

State Rep. Mary DuBuisson, a Slidell Republican, asked if the debtors are ever put in jail.

“It’s criminal activity as far as I’m concerned,” she said.

Kimberly Robinson, secretary of the Department of Revenue, said her department does partner with the Attorney General’s office, but said the debts they’re dealing with, such as unpaid parking tickets, generally don’t involve criminal acts.

Robinson said she is satisfied with the tools the office does have, including claiming someone’s tax rebate, garnishing their bank accounts, or trimming vendor payments if the debtor has a government contract. Sometimes, the debtor doesn’t have anything to garnish.

The relevant agencies try to collect the debts themselves before turning the task over to the state office, so the outstanding debts represent the hardest debts to collect, a staff member said, which also helps explain why such a small proportion is collected.

Money that is collected is returned to the relevant agency or institution.

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