If you've ever paid a bill or a traffic ticket after it was due, you are familiar with late payment fees.
It turns out the state of California is familiar with them, too.
The state paid more than $34.3 million in penalties for overdue bills from July 2004 through June 2011, according to new figures from California's Department of General Services, the state's business manager.
The state accrued more than a third of those late fees – more than $11.7 million – in the 2010-11 fiscal year, according to figures provided by the department.
Critics say the state has no excuse for failing to pay its bills on time.
“We shouldn’t really ever be doing this, but particularly when we are in a fiscal crisis, it’s especially problematic,” said Jessica Levinson, an associate clinical professor at Loyola Law School in Los Angeles. “When you are using the taxpayers’ money, there is a responsibility to act with reasonable care. It is really inappropriate to be tardy in paying bills when it’s costing so much in late fees.”