Your morning jolt: Balking at the ‘bait-and-switch’ of fee increases

As well you know, Republicans in Georgia do not support tax increases. But fee increases are an entirely different matter.

This year’s $18 billion state budget includes $96 million in fee increases – many levied by the courts. Not to mention the unfortunately named $200 million hospital bed tax.

That same hat trick may not be so easy when the General Assembly convenes again this week. From Walter Jones of the Morris News Service:

Officials with the Association County Commissioners of Georgia said Monday that they intend to take a public stance against future fees until the state stops its practice of redirecting the revenue collected from existing fees.

Examples include fees on drunk-driving arrests for crime labs and on phone bills listed for 911 service even though none of the money winds up going to local emergency-dispatch services.

“The big issue here is when does a fee become a tax? Does it erode the public’s trust in our state government to deliver the services … when it’s no more than a bait and switch?” asked Todd Edwards, associate legislative director for the association.

In many cases, local governments have to come up with the money to pay expenses that the fees were intended to cover, from health departments to legal defense for the poor.

In other cases, the services simply aren’t provided by anyone. The state collected $17 million from a $1 tire fee intended to clean up old, illegal tire dumps, but less than $2 million went to actual cleanup. The rest went to shoring up the general budget while the Department of Natural Resources can’t afford to remove 3 million tires dumped illegally in Upson County.

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The morning’s hot video features NBC’s Brian Williams describing his euphemistic experience with airport security to David Letterman. From Politico.com:

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Not long ago, Joe McCutchen of Ellijay left an early morning voice-mail declaring that he would back Fox5’s “Georgia Gang” regular Phil Kent for that new congressional seat that will open up in 2012.

We contacted Kent on Monday. He said he appreciates the compliment, but he has no intention of running.

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The website staff listing of the Republican Governors Association had dropped two names as of Monday: Executive director Nick Ayers, former aide to Gov. Sonny Perdue, and political director Paul Bennecke, another former Perdue aide. Both had very good years in 2010, and are expected back in Atlanta forthwith.

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State Sen. Ronald Ramsey of Lithonia

State Sen. Ronald Ramsey of Lithonia

DeKalb County School Watch, an education-oriented website, is hot and bothered over the fact that the local system, which last night proposed the shutdown of 14 schools, still has money to give a hefty raise to a state lawmaker in its employ.

The website says state Sen. Ronald Ramsey, D-Lithonia, the system’s director of the Office of Internal Affairs, has received a $24,000 bump in salary over the last two years – to an annual $140,000.

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State Rep. Doug McKillip of Athens, the former Democratic caucus chair who switched to the Republican party last month, is apparently considered a featured player by the House GOP leadership.

A fundraiser for McKillip, hosted by House Speaker David Ralston of Blue Ridge and all other noteworthies of the GOP caucus will be held at 5:30 p.m. today at Six Feet Under. Suggested minimum contribution is $250.

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Republican Tim Echols, who won a statewide race in November, hasn’t stopped campaigning. From Blake Aued of the Athens Banner-Herald:

Echols, the newly elected state Public Service Commission member, bought a natural gas-powered car and installed a solar water heater at his Winterville home last month.

Both are economical, but they also will give him “moral authority” as he starts his six-year term, he said.

“It’s one thing to say it’s good,” he said. “It’s another thing to put it on your house and do it.”

- By Jim Galloway, Political Insider

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10 comments Add your comment

GaBlue

January 4th, 2011
9:52 am

Raise your hand if you trusted the “representatives” who implemented these deceptive tax/fees because they had an (R) by their names. Anyone? Anyone? BTW, don’t forget to check your power bill this month. They’re letting Georgia Power soak you for up-front investment capital, for which you will never be reimbursed let alone see profit, to build a power plant for which you will be required to pay (again) for every amp you use (even though you were an investor), if you live long enough to benefit from it, that is (bet your parents won’t, and they’re getting soaked too). Bless your hearts.

Mr. KnowitAll

January 4th, 2011
10:41 am

The fees being collected by Ga Power are part of the most insidious legislation EVER PASSED in Georgia. Circumventing the people elected to make these decisions (the Public Service Commission), Ga Power hired an ARMY (some said 70+) of lobbyists to influence the legislature on their scheme to pay for a nuclear power plant–interest free, and on the backs of the ratepayers.

When commercial industry heard about this, they sic’ed their lobbyists on them and were summarily EXCLUDED from being charged. Therefore, ONLY RESIDENTIAL ratepayers are paying for the nuke plant–but commercial users–the largest users—will not have to pay.

This fee-based legislation wreaks so bad, is enough to make anyone PUKE!!

Bend over and grit your teeth. Ga. Power OWNS our legislature.

deegee

January 4th, 2011
10:55 am

Commercial power consumers provide jobs to the residential power consumers so they shouldn’t have to pay more. It’s the republican way in a republican state.

GaBlue

January 4th, 2011
11:01 am

Government intrusion into our lives: Legislatures enabling private business to monopolize, then authorizing them to force us to pay for something we are not yet receiving and may never get, in order for the business to avoid the personal responsibility of raising the investment capital on their own for a future enterprise for which they plan to make profits, but not share with the unwilling investors.

It’s the republican way in a republican state.

ROBOCOP

January 4th, 2011
11:29 am

What are you complaining about over the GP rate increases? It’s a Republican version of stealing money from the public (suckers that they are) to take care of their.

You people are such fools, you deserve to get fleeced.

ROBOCOP

January 4th, 2011
11:30 am

Oops! “…to take care of their friends.”

Sonny Purdue

January 4th, 2011
11:46 am

Just like a bunch of damn BMW democrats….you think you are entitled to everything at the cost of someone else. Power, Healthcare, Welfare, Education, and so on.

You are free to move the Northeast. As the former governor I will buy your ticket so you can get out. Then you can see just how bad you have it. I will give you a relocation package to Maine.

Quit your bitching and cash your welfare check.

No Teabagging

January 4th, 2011
11:52 am

The “bait and switch” tactic is why I did not trust the state to fund trauma care and voted NO on the amendment.

Ghetto Grandpa

January 4th, 2011
12:42 pm

Bait and switch has a long history in Georgia. Next time you buy tires you will pay a per-tire “disposal fee” that is supposed to fund a solid-waste clean-up trust fund. Every year the legislature takes the money and spends it elsewhere, leaving counties and cities to clean up the mess. But don’t worry — these are fiscal conservatives we are taking about, not a bunch of socialist liberals who don’t want to fund boat-ramps in South Georgia. I’m sure the GOP legislature only cares about the welfare of ordinary Georgians.

Michael

January 4th, 2011
4:04 pm

The legislature raised court filing fees by $7 to fund the indigent defense lawyers. They raised $47 million. Then the legislature said they didn’t need all that money. They correctly said that these fees just go into the General Fund unless a constitutional amendment directs it to a particular entity. The latest $120 added as a “Judicial Operations Fee” to court filing fees will most likely go to building a fish ramp or museum somewhere. Even the notary public fee increased by $120 which will mostly result in there being fewer notaries.

The legislature managed to steal (re-purpose) the Ga 400 money and I can only imagine they are going to try to get their hands on that lottery money.