MAINE - This session, the state legislature will have a chance to restructure and broaden the funding of the Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife.
Through a bill entitled an Act to Stabilize the Funding of the Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife, the legislature could provide a long-term solution to the department's funding woes. The bill is sponsored by Representative Matt Dunlap of Old Town, the House chair and cosponsored by Senator David Carpenter, Senate Chair of the Joint Standing Committee on Inland Fisheries and Wildlife as well as several other cosponsors from both chambers of the legislature.
The bill contains a fiscal stability program that would supplement the Department's budget with general fund money, it would establish a process to adjust license costs biannually to allow for inflation and it provides a guideline for restructuring the license fee structure that reflects inflation and customer's interests. The bill will go before the legislature this January.
"Licenses are going up to cover the cost of existing programs, but not all by the same amount," said IFW Commissioner Lee Perry, "While a fishing license and a hunting license are each increasing by $9.00, a combination fishing and hunting license will also go up by just $9.00, not $18."
"We also propose to change the license structure, so people don't have to buy what they don't need. A turkey hunter who does not want to hunt deer would no longer need to purchase a big game license, and that is the same for those who want to hunt bear or moose. They could buy a basic license, and then purchase the appropriate permit to allow that type of hunt," said Perry.
Under the Fiscal Stability Program, the budget presented by the governor must ensure that the cost of the programs that provide general fish and wildlife related benefits to the state be equitably balanced between general fund money and license revenue raised by the department. In a state of 1.2 million people, studies by the University of Maine show that wildlife watching involves over 750,000 people a year, while the department sold 213,000 hunting licenses. An equitable share would be determined by the governor's office.
Section 1A of the bill provides for an inflationary adjustment, which would stabilize funding. Starting in fiscal year 2005, licenses, permits and fees would be adjusted to maintain parity with the United States Consumer Price Index. The adjustment would be rounded to the nearest $.50.
The bill would also create a WE CARE support program, an acronym for the Wildlife Enthusiast's Conservation Appreciation Recreation and Enjoyment program. This program would be established to encourage voluntary support for the programs and services supplied by the department. The fee for participating would be $30.00.
The proposed license restructure and proposed fees are detailed below:
Recreation vehicle registrations would also increase to offset rising costs of maintaining current service levels. Boat registrations would be raised by $2.50 while snowmobile and ATV registrations would increase by $2.00.
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