Governor Deal signed a law earlier this month that he doesn’t agree with. The Hazardous Waste Trust fund, renewed this year after a pretty fierce tug-of-war between the Georgia House and the Georgia Senate, is supposed to dedicate that fees assessed for specific purposes are actually used for those purposes. The $1 “Tire Clean-up Fee” for instance, assessed on every new tire sold in Georgia, is supposed to go into The Solid Waste Trust fund and pay for cleaning up old tire dump sites and unlined landfills. It doesn’t. “Last year, only $722,139 of $6.4 million collected in tire fees was appropriated to the Solid Waste Trust Fund.” But in signing the renewal bill, Governor deal issued a signing statement that says in part:
“…Article 3, Section 9, Paragraph 6 of the Constitution of Georgia specifically limits any attempt to dedicate revenues in a general bill unless specifically permitted by the Constitution of Georgia. Without such specific permission in our Constitution, I would deem this language in House Bill 276 as being nonbinding on any subsequent General Assembly as it goes about its yearly duty to appropriate funds.”
So which is it? Is putting money to the purpose it’s supposed to be used for an unconstitutional earmark?
Here’s the section of the Georgia Constitution cited by the Governor: (link goes to pdf)
Paragraph VI. Appropriations to be for specific sums. (a ) Except as hereinafter provided, the appropriation for each department, officer, bureau, board, commission, agency, or institution for which appropriation is made shall be for a specific sum of money; and no appropriation shall allocate to any object the proceeds of any particular tax or fund or a part or percentage thereof.
But thereinafter, our controlling legal document provides 12 different ways (b through n) our legislature can allocate the proceeds of “particular taxes or funds.” So Georgia can dedicate fees to specific purposes -but only if the Constitution says so. And currently, it appears to be silent on how to fund the trust funds.
Of course, those of you with actual legal training may have different opinions.