SAVANNAH, GA (WTOC) - The General Election is just two weeks away but thousands of voters in the Coastal Empire have cast their vote early.
For those of you who have not voted yet in Georgia, there are five constitutional amendments on the ballot. Monday, WTOC is highlighting the details of Amendment 1 - the Georgia Outdoor Stewardship Amendment. If it passes, it would guarantee millions of dollars would go to conservation in the state every year.
From the coastline to the North Georgia mountains, the state’s dynamic geography has always had to compete for funding out of the state’s general fund. Right now, the state does not have a dedicated funding source for land conservation, but organizations like the Georgia Conservancy have been lobbying for change for many years.
“We don’t have a very predictable flow. It’s a lot easier for communities and the state to service the people of Georgia when they have a predictable level of funding year after year,” said Charles McMillan, Coastal Director for Georgia Conservancy.
Georgia voters must decide whether to approve the Outdoor Stewardship Amendment, which would create a trust fund pulling from the existing sales tax on outdoor sporting goods.
“So, it takes the money out of the general fund and puts into a separate trust fund - similar to what they’ve done for educational funding through the lottery,” McMillan said.
WTOC: "So basically, if you are at Dick’s Sporting Goods or Bass Pro Shop and you’re buying something, you pay that seven percent sales tax and 80 percent of that could be going into this fund. Is that what I understand?"
“That is correct,” McMillan said.
Without ever raising taxes, the trust fund is estimated to generate about $20 million a year. The funding goes into three areas: local parks and trails, state parks and maintenance, and hunting and fishing areas. According to the 2016 Conservation Almanac, Georgia is among 17 states in the nation that does not have a dedicated funding source for land conservation.
The states that do follow a similar model pull from sources like the lottery or sales tax revenue.