There’ll soon be a new debt collector in state government to pursue scofflaws who don’t pay their debts to the state. A bill that’s among the final measures to come up for a vote in the 2010 legislature would give the governor authority to appoint a new “debt coordinator.”
This new debt “czar” would work in the Iowa Department of Revenue. According to the bill, the person hired for the job should be an “expert” in the field of debt collection. Ther would be two other people working in the new office, and Representative Andrew Wenthe of Hawkeye says the primary goal for the trio will be to collect court-ordered fines and fees that have not been paid.
“Currently, there’s $525 million in outstanding court debt; $216 million of this is over four years old,” Wenthe says.
Legislators are also launching a new “amnesty program” which would let Iowans who have unpaid court debts pay back half of what they owe, and the rest will be forgiven. That amnesty deal would be in place from September 1 through November 30 of this year. The Iowa Bar Association, which represents the state’s attorneys, worked on this proposal along with court officials and legislators like Wenthe. “To figure out how the State of Iowa could identify ways to improve the debt collection that needs to be addressed in our state,” Wenthe says.
According to one estimate, over $3 million could be collected during the three-month amnesty period when people can pay up and get half of their court debt dismissed. Governor Culver supports the legislation which has been endorsed by both the House and Senate today.