Georgia officials see toll lanes as the future of traffic management in the Atlanta region. New toll lanes just opened on I-75 south of the city, and others are under construction in Cobb and Cherokee counties and on I-85 northeast of the city.
But some people aren’t on board with the program. They’re using the existing toll lanes without paying and – in some cases – racking up huge amounts of unpaid tolls and penalties. Now the General Assembly is considering a proposal – House Bill 150 – that would dock the state tax refunds of toll scofflaws.
At a House Transportation Committee meeting Thursday, Rep. Alan Powell, R-Hartwell, told his colleagues the unpaid debts are a serious problem – some people owe $10,000 to $15,000 in unpaid tolls and penalties.
“You have some people who have absolutely no respect for the authority of government,” Powell said. “They don’t give a flip and they ain’t going to pay.”
Chris Tomlinson, executive director of the State Road and Tollway Authority, said most people pay when they’re caught in the lanes when they’re not supposed to be. But there’s a small number – he didn’t know how many – who repeatedly use the lanes and refuse to pay.
Tomlinson told the committee the agency would go after their tax refunds only after a lengthy process of trying to collect through other means.
An earlier version of the bill would have allowed the state to put a hold on someone’s vehicle registration if they refused to pay up. But that provision was scrapped because of due-process concerns.
Still, the ability to go after tax refunds would be “one more tool in the toolbox,” said committee Chairman Kevin Tanner, R- Dawsonville.