If you buy a new tire in Georgia, there’s a $1 fee that gets tacked onto the bill, called the Scrap Tire Management Fee. It’s supposed to go toward cleaning up illegal tire dumps in the state and other recycling and trash programs.
But it often doesn’t.
In the past decade, lawmakers have directed more than $50 million from the scrap tire fee to Georgia’s general fund, according to ACCG, which is Georgia’s county association.
“It means that money is not there for statewide recycling programs,” said Kathleen Bowen, associate legislative director for ACCG. “The money’s not there to clean up even more illegal tire dumps that are all over the state.”
This November, Georgia voters will decide on a constitutional amendment that would give lawmakers the power to say that when a fee is for some specified thing, the money has to actually go to it.
It could also apply to a fee the state collects at landfills. The money is intended for hazardous waste site cleanup, but according to the ACCG, about $100 million from that fund has ended up in the general fund in the past 10 years.
“This measure has been one that we’ve worked on for many, many years,” state Rep. Andy Welch, a Republican from McDonough, said on the Georgia House floor in early March. “It would bring a level of accountability back to those fees. It would bring back truth in taxation and truth in fee dedication.”
He sponsored the resolution to send the amendment to voters, picking it up after state Rep. Jay Powell died late last year.
This effort has taken more than a decade, said Jesse Demonbreun-Chapman, executive director at the Coosa River Basin Initiative.
“Throughout all of my years working on this, consistently people’s minds are blown that this is normal practice, that money is collected for one purpose, and then it’s just spent on something else,” he said.
Under a fiscal emergency, the fees could still be used some other way, and there would be a cap on how much money would go to the funds.
This is one of two constitutional amendments on the Georgia ballot this fall. The other would allow people to sue the state.