Fees to help raise revenue for state budget - WALB.com, South Georgia News, Weather, Sports

Fees to help raise revenue for state budget

By Karen Cohilas - bio | email

ALBANY, GA (WALB) – State lawmakers are trying to make up an expected billion dollar shortfall in next year's budget. As they cut expenses, they are also looking for ways to raise revenue, including increasing fees for services you use.

One of the proposed increases would add an additional $100 for filing civil cases. Attorney Charlie Peeler says he understands the mindset behind a new fee on civil filings in Superior Courts in Georgia.  He said, "The bill is really seeking to solve a tough problem."

A massive budget hole. But it also seeks to add two new judges to both the Supreme Court and the Court of Appeals, and adding judges can't happen without adding money for their salaries.  Peeler said, "They work incredibly hard and they need to have a pay increase that brings them more along the lines of private sector attorneys so you continue to have qualified folks in the judiciary."

With an additional $100 filing fee for civil cases, the Georgia fee would still be far below what is paid in federal court. "If you file a civil case in federal court, it's around $350, but even at the new $180 level, you're still below the federal system."

Even so, the additional fee, could place an additional burden on people without the resources to pay it.  Peeler said, "You've got to maintain access to the courts for all folks rich and poor and they're concerned if you do raise the filing fee to $180 that you may also raise the barrier to get civil litigants into court."

And Peeler says if more money is needed for the court system, it may be best to tax more than just the people filing cases, since everyone in Georgia benefits from a strong court system.

In Dougherty County, the current filing fee is $75. You can add on another $25 if you want a sheriff's deputy to serve the case to other parties. The new fee would bump the price to at least $175.

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