Rome and Floyd County officials are not alone in voicing concern at the continuing loss of revenue to pay for items such as teen driver education, hazardous waste and solid waste cleanups, police training and indigent defense.
In preparation for the Jan. 14 start of the General Assembly session, the Georgia Municipal Association and the Association County Commissioners of Georgia have both included the need for protections in their legislative priority agendas.
“To the detriment of local governments and the communities they serve, revenues from these funds have been substantially redirected over the past decade to help balance the state’s budget,” according to the platform drawn up by the ACCG’s revenue and finance committee chaired by Chattooga County Sole Commissioner Jason Winters.
The GMA notes that the funds were originally set up to support local government initiatives, many of which are mandated by the state or federal government. Reducing the amount of available state money means cities and counties must “access alternate sources,” the policy paper states.
State Rep. John Meadows, R-Calhoun, 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.
There are indications that the measure will be re-introduced in the 2013-14 session, although the ACCG prefers a strict constitutional amendment and a mechanism that would send the funds directly to cities and counties.
The two local government advocacy groups plan to keep a watchful eye on state legislative proposals that could affect their revenue sources or add costly mandates.
“They don’t have to help us. Just don’t hurt us,” Rome City Manager John Bennett said half-jokingly during a budget discussion last week.
Both the ACCG and GMA are supportive of comprehensive tax reform, including an end to exemptions on sales and property taxes that have been granted to special-interest groups.
Georgia has 110 exemptions in the sales tax code that reduce the potential local revenue by more than $2 trillion, according to the ACCG.
“All property and sales tax exemptions should be reviewed, and every exemption that fails to provide a legitimate benefit to the entire state’s economy should be eliminated,” the Winters committee policy reads.
The ACCG also is recommending a sales tax on services, to expand the base and shift the burden away from property owners.