Published Friday, January 27, 2012
By WALTER C. JONES
Morris News Service
ATLANTA – Legislation introduced Wednesday would prohibit politicians from tapping special-purpose trust funds for uses other than the stated reason for the fees.
The drop in tax collections since the last recession led the last two governors and legislative budget writers to use as much as $65 million in fees for general-government purposes. That has angered the special-interest groups that originally lobbied for those funds.
Environmental groups pushed for the creation of the solid-waste trust fund and a tire-recovery fund to serve as a source to cover the costs of cleaning up waste sites. Joshua's Law created another fund, named for a teenager killed in a car crash, that is supposed to pay for driver-education courses for new motorists.
Diverting most of the money going into those programs leaves them underfunded.
Local-government officials also object to redirecting those funds because they are required by law to run those programs, using local funds to replace those redirected.
Rep. Jay Powell, a former Camilla mayor, sponsored House Bill 811 to end the practice. It phases out the fees over five years if they are not used for the stated purpose.
The measure has 60 cosponsors, including House Appropriations Chairman Terry England, the Auburn Republican who oversees the budget process that diverted the fees. Besides Republicans like Powell and England, the cosponsors include the House Democratic leader, Stacey Abrams of Atlanta.