State House Sound Bites

Capitol reporter Mary Wilson covers Pennsylvania politics and issues at the Pennsylvania state capitol.

Bill aims to saddle debtors, not taxpayers, with debt collection costs

Written by Mary Wilson, Capitol Bureau Chief | Aug 13, 2013 4:49 PM

A forthcoming Senate proposal would kick some money over to the Attorney General's office for any debts it collects on behalf of the commonwealth.

Sen. Tim Solobay (D-Allegheny) said he wants the state's top law enforcement office - and ultimate state debt collector - to be able to charge for its efforts to go after debtors.

"A lot of the different agencies of the state, when they have trouble collecting fines or things that they end up having to turn over to the Attorney General's office for collection - basically the cost of doing that is taxpayer funded," Solobay said.

Right now, the Pennsylvania's top law enforcement office goes after debts to state agencies, but isn't compensated for its efforts.

Solobay's proposal is modeled off a House bill introduced last session by Rep. Harry Readshaw (D-Allegheny), who came upon the issue as the ranking Democrat on the House Professional Licensure Committee.

The proposal, Solobay said, would remedy a catch in the law that allows the AG to indirectly charge debtors with collection efforts but not reap any of those payments. How? The AG can contract with private debt collection companies, which can, in turn, charge debtors. But the office itself can't levy any kind of fee on debtors for collection efforts.

"Instead of the taxpayers picking up the tab for these folks who have violated something, this would put a five percent charge onto the outstanding bill that these individuals owe," said Solobay. He said the surcharge revenue could only be used to cover the AG's costs of debt collection.

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Published in State House Sound Bites

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