However, he is aware this fee, which is intended to go into the state’s Solid Waste Trust Fund to help cover the cost of the removal of old tires, could end up being part of a larger pot that state lawmakers have tapped into in recent years to balance the general fund budget.
“Sometimes the money generated (by these fees) is a whole lot more money than we spend for each program,” said Meadows, R-Calhoun. “So it goes into the pot.”
This pattern is repeated for a number of add-on fees instituted by state laws set up to fund specific programs or services, including the teen driver education fund.
Joshua’s Law was named after a Bartow County student who died after losing control of his car. The legislation requires that drivers younger than 17 take an approved course before they can get a license.
By September, the 5-percent add-on to traffic fines instituted in 2007 had brought in more than $76 million, but the state had awarded just $8 million in local grants for driver’s ed programs, according to a report from the Georgia Driver’s Education Commission.
Meadows sponsored a measure last year that would have stopped or reduced a fee if all of the money isn’t used for its designated purpose.
House Bill 811 passed the House but was changed in the Senate. The two chambers failed to reconcile the differences before the session ended and the bill died.
Now he is a co-sponsor on House Bill 127 that aims to accomplish what he said is something that is fair to the citizens of Georgia.
“I do understand when in a budget situation like we are in now, it takes every penny that we generate to keep things close to where they were before,” Meadows said.
“The cold hard fact is we’re charging people these fees and I don’t know how much of it goes toward what people think it is.”
A large portion of these fees were originally set up to support local government initiatives, many of which are mandated by the state or federal government.
Rome and Floyd County officials have joined with the Georgia Municipal Association and the Association County Commissioners of Georgia in opposing the redirection of funds that are meant to help with things such as hazardous waste cleanups, police training and indigent defense.
State Sen. Chuck Hufstetler, R-Rome, is a former Floyd County Commissioner and understands the frustration of having these funds not ending up where they are supposed to go.
“My long term goal is to get these fees back to what they are intended for,” Hufstetler said. “One of the things being discussed is phasing these fees back to what they are intended for over a period of several years. It is a realistic compromise to deal with the budget issues we have and still get the money where it needs to go.”
Meadows said there was a lot of support for HB 811 last year and he hopes that will return and increase for HB 127.
“If we find that this is the truth and we can decrease or do away with certain fees, I don’t know why we shouldn’t,” Meadows said.
According to the Georgia General Assembly website, HB 127 is awaiting review by the House Appropriations Committee.
Meadows, who chairs the House Rules Committee, said he looks forward to seeing the bill come through his committee on its way to the House floor.