As January and the beginning of the legislative session approach, attention turns again to the state budget. As the economy has continued to improve, tax collections are up but the budget is still tight. Previous years’ cuts may be restored or the budget may maintain status quo. One issue that may get some attention though is Georgia’s policy regarding designated fees. A recent report from the Atlanta Journal Constitution and reporter James Salzer shows many of the state’s fees – tire fees, dumping fees, prepaid cell phone fees, court filing fees and many others – are being diverted from their designated purpose into the general fund to make up budget shortfalls without raising taxes or cutting programs.

Salzer cites as an example that about $50 million collected via the $1 per tire fee has been funneled into the state’s general fund since 2003. Joshua’s Law, passed in 2005, added a surcharge to traffic fines in an effort to fund driver education programs in state schools. The law raises about $10 million annually and an audit in 2011 showed that $57 million had been collected up that point. Out of that $57 million, only $8 million had actually gone to the driver training programs.   

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