Reason Foundation Study: Illinois Second Worst State for Fines and Fees

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By Kevin Bessler | The Center Square

Illinois’ state and local governments collect some of the most fines and fees in the country on a per capita basis, a new study shows.

The Reason Foundation found that Illinois is second highest in the nation, averaging about $50 per resident in 2020. The $50 per resident feed in Illinois compares to less than $3 per resident in Kentucky.

In 2019, local fines and fees revenue accounted for less than 2% of pre-pandemic general revenue in all 50 states. The year 2017 is the most recent year for which local revenue data is available. During that year, 28,159 U.S. cities, townships and counties reported a total of nearly $5 billion in revenue from fines and fees after excluding jurisdictions without sufficient data.

Data for the study was obtained from the Census Bureau’s annual survey of state and local government finances.

“In Illinois, local governments retain a fairly substantial portion of the revenue generated by citations and traffic tickets within that jurisdiction,” said Vittorio Nastasi, director of Criminal Justice Policy with the Reason Foundation.

Nastasi notes that fines and fees have turned many courts into revenue centers for state and local governments, creating what he calls undesirable conflicts of interest.

The study notes that rural areas with relatively small populations tend to be the most dependent on fines and fees, leading to so-called speed-trap towns along major highways.

Some of the Illinois communities highlighted included Cave-in-Rock at the border of Illinois and Kentucky, where fines and fees make up over 26% of the village’s revenue, or $128 per resident. In Chenoa, fines and fees amount to 14.2% of the town’s revenue, or $128 per resident. In North Pekin, near Peoria, fines and fees make up about 15.9% of the village’s revenue, or $166 per resident.

The analysis shows that 176 governments nationwide derived 20% or more of their revenues from fines and fees, and 42 municipalities derived 50% or more of their general revenue from fines and fees.



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