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Wednesday, January 5, 2011 - 10:44am

Millions in Fees Redirected

The state has collected millions of dollars over the years in fees that aren’t going toward their original purpose.

Local officials say if lawmakers continue to divert fees to other purposes they shouldn’t pass any more of them.

For the past six years, the state collected about $45 million in a fee originally intended to clean up hazardous waste sites. But less than half of the money actually went to the program. And last year none of it did --- even though 60 waste sites are on the list requesting the funds. The same goes with the state’s solid waste trust fund, its emergency 911 assistance fund and a driver's ed training fund.

Republican Senator Jack Hill who chairs the appropriations committee says the fees go into the general fund and they've had to divert the money to higher priorities especially in this recession.

"I don’t hesitate a moment to take every dollar we can find that is not critical to use to meet the critical needs," says Hill. "What are you going to cut children’s health insurance in order to give a grant for solid waste, no I don’t think so."

But Todd Edwards with Association of County Commissioners says it’s dishonest to taxpayers to keep adding fees for one purpose then redirecting the money for another.

"We are for designated fees if in fact when they’re implemented they're sold as such and if they’re not let’s call it what it is , let’s call it a tax," says Edwards. "I think we need to be truthful."

Edwards say counties won’t support any more fees until they go toward their original purpose. Under state law, the only way to keep lawmakers from diverting fees is to pass a constitutional amendment for each one.