Saturday, March 31, 2018

Pa. House committee thwarts Senate bill that would've hiked fishing license fees

Pennsylvania fishing license fees will hold firm for the 2018-19 season after a state House of Representatives committee stopped a Senate bill that would have increased prices.
PennLive reported that at a meeting of the House Game and Fisheries Committee Tuesday, legislators were critical of John Arway, executive director of the Fish and Boat Commission, and refused to advance the bill, which had passed in the Senate by a large majority.
The committee’s refusal to advance the bill to the House floor came as no surprise. Committee chairman Rep. Keith Gillespie, R-York, recently told the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette there was “absolutely no way” a funding bill could proceed with Mr. Arway at the agency’s helm. His committee sent a bill to the House floor that would set an eight-year term limit on the Fish and Boat executive director position that would force Mr. Arway from his position.
Since 2005, a resident adult fishing license has cost $22.90. The Senate bill would have increased next year’s fee to about $28.90, including processing fees, with annual increases of 3 percent during each of the following four years.
Fish and Boat operates on a $52 million budget raised through license sales, federal excise taxes on fishing gear and boating fuel, and resource leases. The agency gets no funding from state taxes, but the legislature sets license fees.
Last year the Board of Fish and Boat Commissioners ordered Mr. Arway to trim $2 million from the budget if he couldn’t get the legislature to increase funding. In testimony yesterday, Mr. Arway twice apologized for briefly posting a map on the Fish and Boat website linking legislative districts with trout streams that would not be stocked if a license-fee increase was not approved.
Like the Game Commission, Fish and Boat holds a reserve of contingency funds used to make scheduled payments and respond quickly to emergencies during seasonal gaps in license sales. Mr. Gillespie challenged Fish and Boat cash reserves of $49.7 million and said the agency should be audited before a license-fee increase is considered.
John Hayes: 412-263-1991,

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