Monday, March 5, 2012

Recreation Worth Paying For

Hunting and fishing are an important part of Minnesota culture.  According to the DNR, around 2 million Minnesotans fish, and around 700,000 hunt, generating $3.6 billion in annual economic activity and supporting 55,000 jobs.  Unfortunately, troubling fiscal projections for the Minnesota Game and Fish Fund may soon hit the wallets of hunters and anglers alike (DNR reports).  According to State and Federal revenue analysis, the Fund is expected to go negative as early as July 2013.  Unfortunately for avid hunters and anglers, this will lead to two possible outcomes: one, the MN DNR will need to cut back on spending and programs, or two, license fees will need to increase.  As cuts in spending, of which have already begun to take place, will significantly affect the quantity and quality of hunting and fishing in MN, increases in user fees will likely result.

 The need for increased revenue is due to a number of reasons.  Primarily, license fees cannot be changed without legislative action, of which has not taken place since fee increases in 2001.  This 11-year stretch of time is the longest without fee increases in over 40 years.  Previous spending cuts and federal aid revenue have helped to offset fee increases up to this point.  Despite these measures, however, renewed budget forecasts pointing to less revenue, and the 20-day government shutdown last July, which cost the Fund an estimated $2.2 million, have lead to an urgent need for increased fees.  On a side note, a newly proposed bill may allow hunters and anglers to buy licenses in the event of a future state government shutdown, allowing the government to continue to collect revenue.

With fee increases likely to be enacted during the 2012 legislative session, there is likely to be an increased number of license options.  These options will allow less avid hunters and anglers to find the best-priced licenses, among numerous other hunting and fishing preferences (new proposals under Cost section)

While measures to increase hunting and fishing fees have failed in previous years, the restructuring of license types, and the urgency for new revenue may push proposals for increased fees through.  Being user fees by design may also help.  Senator Bill Ingebrigtsen, R-Alexandria, said, "I think it has a much better chance this year because they're user fees, not taxes.  If you don't hunt and fish in the state of Minnesota you don't have to pay for it."

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