Pandemic lays bare North Carolina’s reliance on fines and fees


Across the U.S., jurisdictions that were the most reliant on fines in 2019 saw the highest cuts in state funding in the previous decade.

The COVID-19 pandemic has negatively impacted fines and fees revenue in many states across the nation. This report argues that North Carolina should move away from relying on fines and fees to support government functions by showing how these are not equitable or reliable sources of funding. The author discusses the growth of fee revenue in North Carolina and the way the pandemic has exposed pre-existing issues concerning the use of fine and fee revenue.  

You can read the full text of the report here

Key findings

  • Between FY 2011-12 and FY 2017-18, fines and fees revenue increased 26 percent whereas individual income tax revenue increased 22 percent. 
  • North Carolina ranks 6th out of all U.S. states in terms of how reliant it is on fees.  
  • Less than one percent of court fines and fees is used to fund the judicial branch but 35 percent of this revenue is sent to the state treasurer, other state agencies, and law enforcement retirement funds. 


  • State policymakers must look to more equitable funding sources. 


Sally Hodges-Copple, Budget & Tax Center
North Carolina Justice Center