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Ga. lawmakers consider raising outdated fees

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ATLANTA  - Georgia lawmakers are considering raising more than 100 fees on everything from licensing gun dealers to permitting billboards.

Some of the fees have remained the same since the 1950s and 1960s.

As legislative leaders struggle to balance the budget, they are reviewing hundreds of old state fees to determine if they should be raised. The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reports that the goal of lawmakers is to raise $100 million more in revenue.

That could mean higher fees for Georgians to renew their professional licenses, to borrow money for a home or to hunt on a private preserve.

"Obviously we're trying to find dollars," Senate Appropriations Vice Chairman Greg Goggans, R-Douglas told the newspaper. "We are trying to find fees that need to be brought up ... but there is nothing we are (considering) raising that will bring in more than it costs to provide a service."

Republican leaders a few months ago swore off tax or fee increases. But they have been softening their position in recent weeks as the extent of the state's fiscal problems has become more evident. They are considering new spending cuts that could reach $1 billion. They also have discussed proposals to increase cigarette taxes and tax hospitals, although neither has so far garnered much support.

A budget task force put together by Lt. Gov. Casey Cagle and Senate leaders may recommend the fee increases this week. Goggans said legislative leaders are expected to consider legislation to raise some fees once they finish evaluating them.

In 2006, before the current budget crisis, the state Department of Audits found user fees were not administered consistently, were often outdated, and sometimes had no bearing on the cost of the services they were intended to fund.

A follow-up audit, released last year found that little had changed.

Auditors looked at four agencies: Agriculture, Banking, Human Resources and Natural Resources and found they were collecting $174 million from 347 user fees in the fiscal year that ended June 30, 2005. About 50 of those fees were set more than 20 years ago. Nearly half were more than 10 years old. Six had not been evaluated in more than 50 years.

One of the oldest fees being considered by lawmakers was set in 1955 and assessed counties four cents per forested acre for fire protection.

"In 1955, four cents was a lot of money. You could get a piece of bubble gum for that," said Dan Gary, director of administration at the State Forestry Commission.

The fee passed on to property owners across the state makes little difference in their tax bills, and the state raised less than $900,000 from it last year. The agency spent about $33 million on forestry protection last year.

One fee that's nearly as old, dating back to 1963, is the $25 the state charges to license firearms dealers. John Thomas, lobbyist for GeorgiaCarry.org and former longtime lobbyist for the National Rifle Association, said there was talk of raising the fee during the fiscal crisis of 2003-2004. But gun advocates fought it off.

The last time many fees were changed was in the early 1990s, when Gov. Zell Miller and lawmakers proposed increases to deal with yet another financial mess.

The fee increases brought in about an extra $200 million a year at the time. Miller caught the most grief for increasing driver's licenses and hunting and fishing licenses.

Yet another fee that hasn't changed since the early 1990s: late fees paid by politicians and candidates who are late filing campaign disclosure reports. The fee for being 15 days or more late filing reports has been $75 since 1993. The Ethics Commission said the state raised $90,000 from late fees last year. Legislation has been filed this session to raise the fees.

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reb007
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reb007 03/07/10 - 10:23 pm
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Tax Tax Tax

Tax Tax Tax

Chillen
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Chillen 03/07/10 - 10:33 pm
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Do Not Raise Our Taxes or we

Do Not Raise Our Taxes or we Will remember you on election day. The government has enough ways to trim without raising our taxes. And remember, a tax on a business is a tax on you, the consumer. It will be passed on through price increases.

Ole School
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Ole School 03/07/10 - 11:24 pm
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Old Zig Zag Zell is ready

Old Zig Zag Zell is ready once more ! hang on to your wallets and State Employees strap in for a bumpy ride !

Junket831
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Junket831 03/08/10 - 12:07 am
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The solution, in part, can be

The solution, in part, can be found in creating a fair and equitable system. If government is going to impose fees and taxes, it should be fair across the board and equal to everyone. Stop all the exemptions for this group or that group.

Brad Owens
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Brad Owens 03/08/10 - 06:23 am
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I support CUTTING the

I support CUTTING the spending instead of fee increases. What the hell is wrong with these guys? Does the Gold Dome affect you cranium's ability to receive messages from the voting public?

WE DON'T WANT MORE TAXES!!!

Why is it that the bozos in the State House ONLY work THIS hard when it comes to finding money to spend? I don't see they burning the midnight oil finding hidden fees and taxes to eliminate during budget SURPLUSES now do we?

The fact is, we have less money. I mean their enaswer to a BILLION dollar shortfall is raise user fees and lic on the small businessman, because that's what's gonna happen. And we all know it.

We "won't make a profit on rasising the fees" so WHAT?!?!? I can see rasing something like the forrestry protection fee because they raise less than a million but spend $33,000,000.00 BUT even then, what are they going to do, raise it by $0.29 an acre? Is that $33mil ONLY spent guarding the land the fee/taxes are paid on? I doubt it, but it sounds great to say a fee hasen't been raised since 1955 huh?

If they do not cut a BILLION in these hard times when almost EVERYONE is hurting and being forced to make sacrifices and instead raise taxes, then You can see where it will all end.

The idea of raising taxes on the little man in the worst economic downturn in our lifetime to pay for the oversized State government ought to be a criminal act.

Ben Harbin, you listening?

Brad

johnston.cliff
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johnston.cliff 03/08/10 - 07:00 am
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As the output for social

As the output for social programs goes up, the intake from taxpayers does too. Whether it's licensing fees or use fees, the tax is passed along to the consumer. Redistribution of wealth is good, personal responsibility is bad. I love the fact that the cola is driven by vote buying.

disssman
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disssman 03/08/10 - 07:12 am
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Junket831. Now if wwe did

Junket831. Now if wwe did that we would be guilty of not helping our friends. And afterall isn't politics all about taking care of friends? BTW didn't we (voters) pass a referendum a year or so ago to give forwsters a sweetheart deal? I thought then, and I do now, why single out anyone for special treatment. But we, acting like lemmings, said sure give them a special deal, without really knowing what iy really meant. Well, we may not have known what we were voting on because of our dis-interest in government, but I'll bet everyone knew the entire history of American Idol or Survivor. The government just dosen't know what is important to us. Or maybe they do. Think before you vote for these breaks for special interest.

disssman
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disssman 03/08/10 - 07:14 am
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Lest I forget, in 1955 4

Lest I forget, in 1955 4 cents would have gotten you a handful of bubblegum. In fact another penny would have bought you a Coca Cola.

glassrinkmaker
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glassrinkmaker 03/08/10 - 08:33 am
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Before you raise fees, why

Before you raise fees, why not cut all the "entitlement" programs which the state is responsible for and has to provide funding from state coffers!!!

Riverman1
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Riverman1 03/08/10 - 09:05 am
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Yeah, what they said. This is

Yeah, what they said. This is going to end-up decreasing tax revenue. The real groups demonstrating are right here, online. These groups are shouting cut spending. These groups also vote. Watch out!!!

draksig
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draksig 03/08/10 - 09:28 am
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I normally do not support tax

I normally do not support tax increases but some of the fees do need to be looked at. Collecting $900,000 for a service that costs 33 million is a bad practice. While I am sure that there is some waste in that 33 million that can be trimmed, there is no way in 2010 they can cut that budget to 900 thousand dollars. At present, all of us are subsidizing that expense. The people that directly benefit from that service should shoulder most of the expense. Just don't take it too far: "Hello, this is 911, please use the keypad to enter your service contract number or press pound to enter a major credit card number."

Boo-Hoo
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Boo-Hoo 03/08/10 - 09:36 am
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Don't raise taxes; cut

Don't raise taxes; cut spending; starting at the top, not from the bottom!!

glassrinkmaker
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glassrinkmaker 03/08/10 - 10:48 am
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There is no way 33 mil was

There is no way 33 mil was spent on forrestry protection. Landowners pay for Forrrest services like cutting firegreaks, etc!! Appears this agency is bloated, just like DOT. Ever see DOT workers--one working, 15 standing around talking!!!! CUT THE FAT LEGISLATURES!

b1
151
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b1 03/08/10 - 10:50 am
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Hey Gov, how about reducing

Hey Gov, how about reducing your DAMN spending! You answer to everything is tax more! What a fool!

chel
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chel 03/08/10 - 11:16 am
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@Johnston: You know what the

@Johnston: You know what the most ironic piece of this article is? The fact that those social programs request are increasing, the state of Ga. is turning it's back on paying providers who do the services. Right now Ga. owes our agency over $65,000 and DFCS told us basically: Yes we used your services, yes the clients benefited from them, yes the reports were used in court, but NO we will not pay you. Nice cap on adding insult to injury to add increased fees to renew licenses......

PUPPYMOMMA
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PUPPYMOMMA 03/08/10 - 01:21 pm
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There would not be a need to

There would not be a need to raise fees if spending were cut. Instead of raising taxes on cigarettes and cost of goods and services, maybe we should require all legal citizens to contribute $1.00 per person so we could buy one-way tickets for illegals to go back to their home country.Sure,Western Union might lose a little money because they wouldn't be getting as many transfer fees for sending money to other countries, but the rest of America will benefit. Classroom sizes would be reduced,medicaid costs would be reduced,food stamp costs would decrease,sheriffs patrol could free up their time. Kinda like the domino effect. The savings would be tremendous.

glassrinkmaker
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glassrinkmaker 03/08/10 - 02:17 pm
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Puppuy, prison costs would

Puppuy, prison costs would plummet!! Come Govenor and legislators, if you are serious about cutting the deficit, implement drug screening for anyone receiving any type of entitlement programs. The majority of people who are EARNING THE MONEY AND PAYING TAXES are drug screened at work. Anyone receiving tax payer entitlements darn sure should!!!!!

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