A move to strengthen and centralize the collection of delinquent accounts owed to Louisiana state agencies received the support of state lawmakers Thursday and now heads to Gov. Bobby Jindal.
House Bill 629 would create a debt recovery office in the state Department of Revenue and grant it the authority to revoke and suspend state-issued licenses for back debts. It will require agencies to refer all their delinquent accounts to either the attorney generals office or the debt recovery office for collection.
State agencies are owed more than $1.4 billion with approximately $700 million of it at least 180 days past due.
The debts range from delinquent college tuition installments to environmental monitoring fees. The Office of Debt Recovery would chase debts that are more than 60 days past due.
State Rep. Chris Broadwater, R-Hammond, sponsor of the bill, has said Louisiana has been too lax in seeking payment for delinquent accounts. He had argued that the states patchwork collections approach resulted in large amounts of money being written off as uncollectable. The state could raise an additional $180 million to $200 million over five years by creating the collection department, according to some estimates. The department also could grab tax refunds and bank accounts from debtors owing money to the state.
A compromise version of HB629 won final passage with a 95-0 vote of the House and 37-1 vote of the Senate. The state first began studying ways to improve collections last July.