Frequently Asked Questions
Why should conserving land be a priority for Georgia?
Two reasons - the economy and our quality of life. Georgia's outdoor recreation industry is the 5th largest in the nation and our tourism industry also relies upon access to the mountains, coast and rivers. The agriculture and foresty industries are dependent upon available land and water to grow and create jobs. In addition, properly managed lands, forests and shorelines reduce the costs associated with addressing air pollution and providing clean drinking water.
Is this a tax increase?
No, this is not a tax increase. It is simply a dedication of taxes already collected on outdoor recreation equipment sold in Georgia.
How much funding would this new mechanism generate?
The Georgia Outdoor Stewardship Act as passed by the General Assembly would dedicate up to 80% of the existing sales and use tax on outdoor sporting goods, with an initial dedicated amount of approximately $20 million annually. The General Assembly would have the ability to adjust that amount based upon fluctuations in the economy and overall revenue collections.
How does this compare to what is currently being spent on conservation?
This proposal would increase the amount of funding currently appropriated for conservation purposes. However, the most significant difference would be the fact that the funding would be dedicated and not subject to the annual appropriations process. This allows funds to be leveraged through federal matching programs and used to finance bonds.
When would the funds be dedicated?
“If signed by the Governor, and if voters approve the referendum, funds would begin to be dedicated on January 1, 2019.
Given all of the state's other priorities, why conservation?
Because Georgia's natural resources play a critical role in job creation and the economic health of communities throughout the state. Dedicated funding for conservation would have a significant impact on our ability to conserve and protect our lands and waters and to continue to attract the hunters, anglers and other outdoor enthusiasts who contribute to our tourism and recreation economy. Access to outdoor space also plays a key role in the state's efforts to promote a healthier population. Finally, it is important to note that Georgia lags behind states, including Florida, North Carolina, South Carolina and Alabama in per capita conservation funding.
Who will determine how the funding is distributed?
The Georgia Environmental Finance Authority will manage the distribution of funds. Projects will first be subject to approval by the State Department of Natural Resources and a Board of Trustees.
What is considered "outdoor recreation equipment"?
Items used for camping, hunting and fishing, and similar outdoor activities. The State Department of Revenue will be responsible for defining the parameters of the new funding mechanism.
What kinds of projects will qualify for this funding?
Funding would be used for the acquisition and stewardship of lands critical to the protection of water, wildlife or outdoor recreation such as those outlined in the Georgia State Wildlife Action Plan (SWAP). The funding would also be used to help local governments with the acquisition and improvement of parks and trails.
Does this prioritize the environment over the economy?
Not at all. One of the main goals of this legislation is to ensure that we have the lands and waters that we need to grow Georgia's economy, create jobs and ensure that our citizens live in communities where they can enjoy the outdoors. It is important to note that if Georgia does not proactively act to protect land, waters and certain species it is likely that the federal government will eventually intervene.
Will voters support this proposal?
The most recent polling on this issue shows that more than 80% of Georgia voters agree that a portion of the state budget should be used to safeguard our lands and waters - irrespective of their political affiliation.