Feb 24, 2022 - News

Georgia sales tax windfall to enhance parks

Illustration of Benjamin Franklin inside a green sleeping bag.
Illustration: Maura Losch/Axios

During the pandemic, we stocked up on kayaks, tents and hiking boots to enjoy the great outdoors. Those shopping sprees to REI, Dick’s and other stores didn’t just get us outdoors — they are going to give us more outdoors to enjoy.

Driving the news: Approved by 83% of Georgia voters in 2018, the Georgia Outdoor Stewardship Act dedicates 40% of state sales tax revenue from purchases at outdoor recreation stores to fund land conservation, trail improvements and restoration.

Details: Every year, the Georgia Department of Natural Resources invites state agencies, local governments and nonprofits to compete for funding. This year, nearly 90 applicants vied for roughly $28 million — 36% more than the previous year.

  • On Tuesday, state lawmakers OK’ed the 15 projects that will benefit from the program, including trail upgrades in Sweetwater Creek State Park, improvements at the Johns Homestead Park in Tucker and a new visitor center at Vogel State Park.

By the numbers: According to sales tax figures obtained by Axios, during this past fiscal year the state collected $73 million in tax revenue — that’s a 42% increase over the previous year. According to state revenue calculations, Georgia appears to be on track to meet or surpass those numbers.

  • Katherine Moore, the president of the Georgia Conservancy, tells Axios that GOSA gives state officials and local governments some certainty about how much funding is available, making it easier to plan projects and raise matching cash.

Yes, but: The program is meant to “supplement, not supplant” state funding to conserve, protect, and improve Georgia’s outdoors, Moore says.

Take action: The program is scheduled to expire near the end of the decade, so if you’re a fan of better parks and protected lands, call your state representative and senator.

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