Research Report Following the Money on Fines and Fees
Aravind Boddupalli, Livia Mucciolo
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Federal, state, and local government officials are increasingly paying attention to reforms of fines and fees. These constitute a small share of total revenues, but they can be particularly harmful because of unjust policing and sentencing practices. This research report first explores how much is raised from all fines, fees, and forfeitures, highlighting places that rely most on them. We then study state-level allocations of speeding ticket revenues and find that in at least 43 states, some portion is sent to courts or law enforcement funds. Legal rules that empower revenue generation through the justice system can undermine public safety and the perceived legitimacy of the justice system. Severing the relationship between revenue collection and budgeting for justice activities could help states reduce misaligned fiscal incentives.

Research Areas Race and equity Taxes and budgets State and local finance
Tags Racial and ethnic disparities State and local tax issues Campaigns, proposals, and reforms Federal tax issues and reform proposals
Policy Centers Urban-Brookings Tax Policy Center