Passing an ethics reform bill was the right thing to do and an important step in trying to earn the trust of the people of Georgia. Another important step in earning trust is for the State to use the fees it collects for the proper purpose. Investigative journalist have had a field day in recent years pointing out how the State collects fees for things like tire disposal and hazardous waste fees are diverted to the general fund.
For three years Rep. Jay Powell has been working on a plan to fix this. Powell’s bill (this year introduced as HB127) would require the State to either appropriate the money collected or cut the fee. Since these fees are tossed into the general fund, cutting the fees impacts other budget items. Consequently, Powell proposed a go slow approach to minimize the fiscal impact. HB127, stalled in the Senate but was added to HB276 on the last day if this year’s session. Thankfully the Senate agreed to the amendment and Powell’s plan will first be implemented on the tire disposal fee and the landfill fee which funds hazardous waste disposal. James Salzer and Kristina Torres have more on this in the AJC.
Rep. Jay Powell, R-Camilla, who has been pushing fee legislation for three years, said the amendment maneuver “worked out well and now we will get a chance to see if that mechanism works…and doesn’t kill the state’s budget.”
Powell said he wants more transparency in the system.
“Say ‘this is a tax, and we may use it for something else,’” Powell said. “Just be honest with the voters, instead of doing some sort of bait and switch.”
Here’s hoping Governor Deal signs HB276 and we begin the process of using fees for as they were intended.