A class-action lawsuit filed recently by the Georgia Motor Trucking Association and several trucking companies challenges House Bill 170, Georgia’s recent transportation funding legislation. The truckers contend sales taxes imposed by local governments (a.k.a., the City of Hawkinsville and every other city) on motor fuel can only be expended for “providing and maintaining an adequate system of public roads and bridges” and “road and construction maintenance.” The lawsuit cites a provision of the Georgia Constitution that limits the expenditure of state sales taxes on motor fuels to those purposes.
The suit seeks to have local sales taxes collected on motor fuel sales placed in an escrow account pending resolution of the lawsuit, jeopardizing over $500 million in local sales taxes used to fund essential city, county and school needs. Cities in Georgia have a lobbying group, The Georgia Municipal Association (GMA) and GMA believes the proposed diversion of local sales tax receipts is unlikely. However, Hawkinsville and other Cities should be aware of the possibility that the proceeds of taxes on the sale of motor fuels could be withheld. This would be very harmful to our city.
GMA disagrees with the claims in the lawsuit because it ignores the fact that local sales tax revenues:
- are not imposed by the State;
- are not eligible for appropriation by the State;
- are specifically authorized by the Georgia Constitution for the provision of local government services or for educational purposes;
- are dedicated by Georgia statutes for specific local purposes other than transportation; and
- in some instances may be contractually dedicated to fund local projects.
Tom Gehl, GMA’s Director of Governmental Relations, notes that the truckers made a similar argument during the debate on HB 170 during the 2015 legislative session, which lawmakers rejected. It is my hope that the courts will throw out this lawsuit because it has no standing. LOCAL vs. STATE.