When someone in Georgia disposes of a tire, dumps heaps of trash in a landfill, buys a bail bond or pays a traffic fine, theres a state fee attached. The fees dont pay for what they appear to pay.
A bill passed 151 to 5 by the state House would incentivize the state Legislature to spend those fees on what the law says: cleaning up landfills and abandoned trash or funding drivers education courses and law enforcement officer training. If they dont, the fee would automatically shrink. Bill sponsor state Rep. Jay Powell, R-Camilla, calls it a trust imperative, to direct funds where people are being told they go.
But state Senate opponents counter that those fees should be available for spending on higher priorities when directed by the Legislature.
Some $57 million dollars were collected by the four fees addressed in House Bill 811 in the year ending last June. The sum spent on what theyre meant for totaled about $13 million. The rest was spent elsewhere. Though law says those fees should fund certain things, only a constitutional amendment can protect the fees from being raided.
A Senate Appropriations subcommittee unanimously amended a trigger onto 811 that possibly guts it. The law would only come into effect when the states rainy day fund reaches 7 percent of the last years spending. On the 2011 budget, that would be about $1.1 billion. According to the Governors Office of Planning and Budget, the rainy day fund has passed $1 billion only once in the last 20 years.
The bill is scheduled for a full Appropriations hearing Wednesday. If anything is to happen before the legislative session ends, within about three weeks, the House and Senate must compromise on some text that Gov. Nathan Deal is willing to sign.