ATLANTA – Georgia voters will decide this fall whether to require that dedicated state funds be spent on their intended purpose.
The state Senate voted unanimously Monday to put the proposed constitutional amendment on the statewide November ballot, giving final passage to a measure that originated in the Georgia House of Representatives.
Committing dedicated state money such as Georgia’s Solid Waste and Hazardous Waste trust funds to their intended use was a longstanding priority of the late state Rep. Jay Powell, R-Camilla, who died unexpectedly last November. As chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee and later the Rules Committee, Powell opposed the legislative practice of diverting those monies into the state’s general fund budget absent a financial emergency.
“It would bring a level of accountability to these fees and truth in taxation back to the dedication of these fees,” Rep. Andrew Welch, R-McDonough, said on the House floor last week.
Although the Senate at one point in this year’s session favored limiting the legislation to the Solid Waste and Hazardous Waste trust funds, senators on Monday agreed to a House proposal applying the constitutional amendment to all dedicated revenues derived from state fees or taxes.
The legislation includes substantial limits to make sure dedicated funds don’t grow too large and can be put to general use in emergencies.
Under the constitutional amendment, dedicated funds could not exceed 1% of total state revenues from the previous year. In a financial emergency, the governor and General Assembly would have the authority to temporarily suspend the dedication of funds.
“This is true middle ground in the appropriations process,” Welch said.
As a constitutional amendment, the legislation does not go to the governor to be signed into law. Its passage Monday guarantees its placement on the general election ballot Nov. 3.