Former Minnesota Vikings’ coach Bud Grant immediately told a Senate committee today (March 13) exactly what brought him to the State Capitol.
“I’m not here to promote the stadium,” Grant told the Senate Environment and Natural Resources Committee.
“I’m here to promote something more important than the stadium,” said Grant.
Grant — in an advocacy mirrored by many outdoor and environmental groups — testified before the committee in support of increasing the cost of hunting and fishing licenses.
Current projections show the state’s game and fish fund, a critical pot of funding for the Department of Natural Resources’ (DNR) habitat efforts, teetering into deficit in July of 2013.
About 59 percent of fund revenues, which totaled about $94 million in 2011, comes from hunting and fishing license sales.
“This is the greatest bargain the state offers its citizens,” said Grant, speaking of the current $17 cost of a fishing license.
“This is a small price to pay,” he said of proposed increases.
The Dayton Administration’s proposed hunting and fishing license increases would capture about $14 million in additional revenue over two years for the game and fish fund.
DNR Deputy Commissioner Dave Schad told the committee the agency doesn’t take bringing fee increases to the Legislature lightly.
“(But) hunters and anglers have always been willing to pay their way,” he said.
A general hunting and fishing license fee increase hasn’t take place in more than a decade, according to the DNR.
Schad styled the game and fish fund one of the most scrutinized and transparent in state government.
Also, one of the most ailing.
“There’s some real urgency to this,” Schad said of boosting funding.
Committee Chairman Bill Ingebrigtsen, R-Alexandria, agrees.
“This is not to be confused with a tax at all,” he told the committee of the hunting and fishing fee increases included in his legislation.
These are user-fees, he stressed.
You don’t hunt, you don’t fish, you pay nothing, Ingebrigtsen told the committee.
Although the fee increases Ingebrigtsen proposals in his bill are identical to the DNR’s in most cases, differences exist.
For instance, while the DNR proposes to increase resident fishing licenses from $17 to $24, Ingebrigtsen proposes $22.
On individual resident sport license, now $29.50, Ingebrigtsen proposes an increase to $37, the DNR, $43.
In an effort to “hook” more young anglers, Ingebrigtsen proposes to decrease resident youth fishing licenses even lower than proposed by the DNR.
Ingebrigtsen wants to cut the cost of the license from $17 to $5.
“I think this is a very good bill,” said Sen. Kari Dziedzic, DFL-Minneapolis.
But in general, Ingebrigtsen’s license fee increases reflect those of the DNR — resident small game hunting license increased $3 to $22; resident deer hunting increased $4 to $30.
Still, Ingebrigtsen’s fee increase proposal would capture about $3 million less over the next two years than the DNR’s.
The biggest difference would be in fishing license revenues, where Ingebrigtsen would net about $2.5 million less.
The need for additional game and fish revenue, Grant argued, is less about future generations than getting through today, tomorrow, next year.
“That’s what I’m talking about,” said Grant.
“We’re not talking about the grand kids,” he said.
According to the DNR about 1.5 million Minnesotans buy fishing licenses each year, with about 600,000 buying hunting licenses.
Some of the pressure felt by the game and fish fund in recent times is that federal funds has been reduced by about $4 million.
Beyond this, the state government shutdown last summer resulted in the fund losing about $2 million in fishing license sales.
For his part, Grant argued that Minnesota offers hunters and anglers the best overall outdoor opportunities found anywhere.
“This is the best bargain in the country,” he said.
“We should advertise in the newspaper,” said Grant.