AJC Watchdog: First Alert

Keeping watch on those who hold the public trust and money

Georgia leaders have made diverting fee money a habit

Alan Brown has spent much of the last decade frustrated at state officials since the General Assembly passed Joshua's Law, a teen driver safety statute named after his son, who died too young in a car crash  in 2003.

That's because much of the traffic fine add-on money that was supposed to go to develop statewide drivers education programs in schools across Georgia was diverted to the state's General Fund to be spent, until recently, on pretty much everything but driver education simulators.

Despite the lack of money, Brown said more schools have driver education programs, and teen driver fatalities have declined since the law passed in 2005.

But lawmakers lowered the court add-ons in 2013, guaranteeing the state would raise even less money for driver education programs. Even if the General Assembly stopped diverting the money, Brown estimated it would take more than 40 years to get simulator programs in all Georgia high schools.

This after lawmakers passed the law promising the money would go for teen driver education.

"I think they (state officials) are setting us up to fail," Brown said. "It's been very frustrating."

The diversion of money meant to fund teen driver programs is an example of something that has become common over the past two decades: Georgians are told new fees and fines are going for one thing, but the money is spent on something entirely else. Follow the money in my special report in Sunday's Atlanta Journal-Constitution and myAJC.com.


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About the Author

James Salzer has covered state government and politics in Georgia since 1990.