More than two years ago, Georgia voters overwhelmingly backed a ballot question that constitutionally dedicated the revenues from certain taxes and fees to the programs lawmakers originally claimed they were needed to fund. Proponents pressed hard for the change, branding their decade-long campaign as a push for “truth in fees” or “anti-bait and switch” or “trust fund honesty.” There was no shortage of slogans, and the cause proved extraordinarily popular with voters when it finally landed on their ballot – nearly 82% of them got behind it in 2020.

As a result, a tipping fee paid on the garbage going into Georgia’s landfills brings in about $12 million every year for clean-up work. “Transparency is back,” said Kathleen Bowen, associate director of governmental affairs with ACCG, which advocates for counties at the state Capitol. “The fees are going towards their intended purposes and are going towards the intended trust fund.”

But some fees were left out when lawmakers finished dedicating the fees in 2021 and now there’s a proposal to tack them onto the list of fees going toward the clean up of sites across Georgia that pose a threat to human health and the environment. The bill, which has bipartisan support, cleared the House last year but stalled when the clock expired on the session.  “There are so many hazardous waste sites that need cleaning up in the state and the cities and counties need assistance with the funding because it’s extremely expensive to do those cleanups,” said Rep. Debbie Buckner, a Junction City Democrat who is sponsoring the bill.

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Author: Jill Nolin, Georgia Recorder
Image: Joe Cook, Coosa River Basin Initiative