A $1 fee tacked onto the price of each new tire sold in the state puts about $6 million a year into the Solid Waste Trust Fund, but only $717,000 went toward illegal dump clean-ups or recycling programs in 2011.
During the past few years, the Georgia General Assembly has also redirected revenue collected specifically for hazardous waste clean-ups, peace officer training and county indigent defense costs. It’s a practice local officials want to see stopped.
“The state has more or less been dipping from those funds,” Floyd County Commissioner Irwin Bagwell said. “Any time someone pays a fee or service charge, it needs to be used for the purpose people think it’s collected for.”
Republican state Rep. Jay Powell, a former mayor of Camilla, is taking aim at the fiscal diversion. His House Bill 811 is supported by both the Municipal Association of Georgia and the Association County Commissioners of Georgia.
“Jay understands that this is important to every city and county in the state,” said Rome City Commissioner Buzz Wachsteter. “Those trust funds were set up to do specific things. Instead, local funds have to be used to haul off tires, and drivers ed is still not part of a regular curriculum.”
Under HB 811, the fees would have to be spent for their specified purpose or cut by the amount that is redirected.
More than 60 House members support the legislation introduced last week, according to the ACCG, but Wachsteter said he’s skeptical of its chances of passing.
Lawmakers “are not going to give away the discretionary money they control,” he said. “If there’s no constitutional amendment, the General Assembly can allocate money any way it wants to.”
Currently, the state constitution only requires that gas taxes be dedicated to roads and bridges — but House Resolution 977, passed out of committee on Wednesday, Feb. 1, would set up a statewide vote to require indigent defense fees be spent on indigent defense.
Another piece of legislation, HR 112, would schedule a similar constitutional amendment vote to protect the solid waste and hazardous waste trust funds. It’s been awaiting a committee hearing since February 2011.