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Legislature reviewing proposed fishing license fee increases

Fisherman line the bank of the Bear Creek in April as they fish for trout. The state Fish and Boat Commission on Wednesday, May 17, approved proposed 2024 increases in fishing licenses and fees. The state legislature is now reviewing the plan. Shane Potter/Butler Eagle
Most fees would increase by $2.50

A proposed increase in the cost of all fishing licenses that would go into effect next year is being reviewed by the state legislature.

The state Fish and Boat Commission on Wednesday, May 17, approved the proposal that would raise $2.9 million in additional revenue to cover rising operating costs.

Under the proposal, most license and permit fees would increase by $2.50. The cost of a senior resident lifetime license would increase by $10, the senior resident annual license would increase by $1.25, the nonresident license would increase by $4 and the one day resident license would increase by $1.25.

An identical set of license fee increases went into effect this year.

In 2024, a resident license would cost $26, a trout permit would cost $13, a trout/Lake Erie permit would cost $19, a senior resident lifetime license would cost $85, a senior resident annual license would cost $12.50 and a nonresident license would cost $59 if the proposal passes the review process.

“We have programs and services that we provide to anglers and boaters that require funding. We don’t receive any tax dollars,” said Mike Parker, commission spokesman.

The commission is not immune to inflationary cost increases and has to keep up with rising costs to maintain infrastructure, buy vehicles and pay employees, he said.

He said the commission has conducted surveys that indicate anglers prefer small, frequent license fee increases over large, less frequent increases, Parker said. The last increase before this year’s was in 2005, he said.

“We feel everyone that we’ve spoken with in this process, especially the anglers, would rather see small increases frequently than large increases less frequently,” Parker said.

License and boat registration fees, and revenue from the federal Pittman-Robertson Act excise tax on outdoor sporting goods sales are the commission’s primary sources of revenue. Parker said about 25% of the commission’s revenue comes from the federal tax. The commission does not receive revenue from state taxes.

“There has been no real push back on this. We think the fishing license continues to be a great value and a small increase is better that a large increase,” he said.

The commission received eight comments on the proposal after it was announced. Of the state’s 900,000 anglers, four opposed the proposal, he said. Four comments supporting the proposal were submitted by large outdoors organizations including Trout Unlimited, he said.

In addition, no one attended the commission’s public meetings or a hearing held on the proposal, he said.

In accordance with Act 56 of 2020, the proposal and the transcript from the hearing have been sent to the House and Senate game and fisheries committees.

The proposal will be deemed approved if neither committee adopts a resolution of disapproval within 30 days of submission or 10 legislative session days, or if one committee adopts a disapproval resolution, but the full legislature does not.

If the legislature adopts a disapproval resolution, it will be sent to Gov. Josh Shapiro. The proposal is deemed approved if Shapiro vetoes the resolution and the legislature doesn’t override the veto by a two-thirds majority vote in each chamber.

The proposal is deemed disapproved if the governor doesn’t veto a disapproval resolution or if the legislature overrides a veto by the governor.

The law was passed three years ago, but the commission didn’t immediately seek a license fee increase because license sales skyrocketed during the COVID-19 pandemic, Parker said.

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