By TOM JOYCE
THE CENTER SQUARE CONTRIBUTOR
(The Center Square) – Local governments in California are receiving a significant amount of money from fines and fees, a new report shows.
Local governments in California collected $1,260,017,000 in fines and fees in 2020, a Reason Foundation report found. It is the second-highest dollar total of any state in the country, behind New York ($1,406,051,000). California also ranks sixth per capita ($31.87) in terms of this revenue-collecting method.
Across the country in 2020, local governments amassed $8,948,454,000 in revenue from fines and fees; that’s $27 per person.
Some communities in California were more aggressive than others in collecting revenue this way. Hermosa Beach City, for example, generated 5.2% of its revenue from fines and fees; that’s $107 per capita. Other nearby cities like Hawthorne City ($66 per capita) and Los Alamitos City ($69 per capita) also collected more than 5% of their revenue this way in 2020, according to the report.
These communities in California were collecting far more revenue through fines and fees than the bottom five states on the list. Local governments in five states collected less than $3 per capita from fines and fees in 2020. Those states included: Nebraska, New Hampshire, Connecticut, Maine, and Kentucky.
Reason Foundation recommends that local governments fund alternative sources of funding rather than relying on fines and fees. Its report argues that such fees are not only an inefficient way to fund the government but are also regressive.
“While most governments do not derive a significant portion of their general revenues from fines and fees, some are almost entirely dependent on them,” the report says. “Nonetheless, fines and fees are not a reliable source of revenue.
“Moreover, using fines and fees to directly fund courts, law enforcement agencies, or other government activities can result in undesirable conflicts of interest,” the report adds. “In addition to these fiscal considerations, fines and fees have devastating consequences on low-income individuals, racial minority groups, and juveniles and their families.”