Pennsylvania could go after lottery winnings, tax returns of Turnpike toll scofflaws

The bill would would allot the money as long as it was not first subject to other claims such as unpaid state taxes, child support, or court-ordered restitution for crimes.

Tollbooth on the highway

FILE - Traffic going eastbound on the Pennsylvania Turnpike proceeds through the electronic toll booths in Cranberry Township, Pa., on Aug. 30, 2021. (AP Photo/Keith Srakocic, File)

Pennsylvania’s state Senate unanimously approved legislation Wednesday that would authorize the Department of Revenue to go after the lottery winnings and income tax returns of Turnpike toll scofflaws.

The bill now goes to the House of Representatives.

The Associated Press reported in 2021 that an internal study by the Pennsylvania Turnpike Commission said that more than $104 million in tolls went uncollected over a 12-month period on the roadway.

That amount grew to $155 million over a subsequent 12-month period ending in 2022, or 10% of what had been expected, an audit found.

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Under the bill, the Department of Revenue could divert money from someone’s lottery prize of more than $2,500 or their income tax return, as long as the money was not first subject to other claims such as unpaid state taxes, child support, or court-ordered restitution for crimes.

The department also can impose a $20 fee for every case where it intercepts money.

Losses had been anticipated after the Turnpike converted to all-cash collections in 2020, laying off hundreds of toll collectors and auditors.

Many vehicles have E-ZPass, a device that collects toll information and processes charges owed by motorists. Turnpike cameras can read license plates of vehicles that are not equipped with an E-ZPass transponder and send bills to their owners. But obscured or faded plates can thwart the toll-by-plate system, as can camera system failures.

The turnpike commission supports the bill, saying it is about fairness for all turnpike travelers who promptly pay their tolls.

Most customers pay what is owed, and the agency does all it can to collect from those who refuse to pay, commission spokesman Carl DeFebo said.

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