Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal's administration revealed a proposal Friday to build efforts to collect millions of dollars owed to state government agencies.
Commissioner of Administration Paul Rainwater, the governor's top budget adviser, said the state plans to standardize its collection policies across agencies and centralize other efforts, either through one agency or with a private company.
The state also will toughen enforcement by increasing penalties, withholding tax refunds for those with delinquent accounts and improving online payment options so people can more easily pay their debts. In the most recent tally, more than $1.4 billion was owed to the state in past due accounts.
Proposals from outside companies seeking to advise the Jindal administration on collections are due to Rainwater's Division of Administration by Oct. 22.
Rainwater's office is looking for an outside adviser to review the state's outstanding debts and help devise the new strategy, which comes as lawmakers and Treasurer John Kennedy pushed for more aggressive collection efforts as Louisiana faces continuing budget shortfalls.
"What we really need is an aggressive, comprehensive approach," Rainwater told the Cash Management Review Board, a state panel considering ways to improve collections.
The Cash Management Review Board has heard from companies that run collection firms and others that auction delinquent accounts to investors for upfront cash, in the hopes of finding a system that will draw in more cash than current collection efforts. The state has no centralized collection agency to handle all state government debts.
Rep. Chris Broadwater, R-Hammond, sponsored a bill passed earlier this year that authorized the creation of a two-year pilot program to let the state sell or auction off a certain slice of long-term delinquent accounts for upfront cash to companies that believe they can collect some of the money.
Rainwater said the state's collection strategy must be broader than just that idea, and Broadwater applauded the administration's plans outlined Friday.