HB 3750 introduced recently by Rep. Katie Stuart (D) of the 112th district amends the Fish and Aquatic Life Code and the Wildlife Code and provides that the respective fees for resident fishing, combination sportsmen, and hunting licenses are waived for current and retired State, municipal, and local law enforcement officers.
What’s to argue with there? It shows strong support for our law enforcement officers, both current and retired. It’s an action and a piece of legislation that feels all warm and fuzzy. It feels good. In an era when law enforcement seems to be constantly coming under the gun from a multitude of directions, it certainly sends the message that someone cares about them. It’s not a surprise that the bill passed out of committee in late March. On the surface it seems like a great andgenerous thing to do.
BUT – and it’s a big BUT – what’s the fiscal implication of this feel good, warm and fuzzy piece of proposed legislation.
At a time when DNR is facing so many budgetary constraints, does it really make sense to pull more from that very budget?
It really does not seem prudent to even consider this potential loss of funds – as evidenced by the fiscal note filed by DNR.
“Loss of both license sale revenue (hunting/fishing) and federal reimbursement funding totals approximately $96,095 annually. This estimate does not include the annual impact by retired officers. The Illinois Department of Natural Resources’ Wildlife and Fisheries divisions DO NOT receive General Revenue Funds from the State of Illinois. Revenue for conservation work, aquatic habitat enhancement, fish stocking and research is generated by the sale of licenses, stamps, permits and other fees. Eroding the pool of funds available by making hunting and fishing privileges free to certain classes of hunters and anglers would continue to reduce the Department’s capacity .”
The additional Balanced Budget Note filed by the OMB goes into even more detail about the financial implications.
“In total, estimated revenue to the state would be reduced by more than $100,000 annually if House Bill 3750 were to become law due to less revenues in hunting and fishing license sales and federal reimbursement. According to the Department of Natural Resources, the loss of hunting license revenue for active police officers is estimated at $37,000 annually. This includes an estimated $12,000 directly from license revenue, plus $25,000 in federal apportionment funding. Additionally, the Department of Natural Resources estimates the loss of fishing license revenue for active police officers to be $59,095 annually. This includes an estimated $33,450 due to the loss in license revenues plus $25,645 in lost federal apportionment funds. Based on active police officers, the estimated loss in revenue would be $96,095. House Bill 3750 includes waivers for both active and retired officers, however at this time the fiscal impact can only be estimated for active law enforcement officers. As such, the fiscal impact of House Bill 3750 is likely to be greater than the above estimates due to the non-inclusion of retired law enforcement officers in the estimates. According to the Department of Natural Resources, conservation work, aquatic habitat enhancement, fish stocking, and research is funded by the sale of licenses, stamps, permits and other fees. Reducing the pool of funds available by making hunting and fishing privileges free to certain classes of hunters and anglers would reduce the capacity of the Department of Natural Resources to fund these duties and if continued could require reductions in service or general funds to support these functions.”
I get that in the grand scheme of the entire financial mess that is our current reality, these seem like pretty insignificant dollar amounts. After all, what’s a mere 100,000 dollars give or take when DNR has an 800 million maintenance backlog and there are state parks that have ZERO assigned staff?
It may seem insignificant, but those dollars do indeed count. In this fiscal climate EVERY penny counts. Every single penny.
The next issue with this piece of legislation is the precedent it sets – Essentially a certain user group or class of sportsmen is given free privileges. That opens the door for additional classes or user groups to also seek a waiver of fees. How do we effectively decide who is and isn’t worthy of hunting and fishing for free?
As much as I support the members of our law enforcement ranks, I just can’t get behind this bill. Not when it threatens the financial status of our already cash strapped and struggling DNR. Heck, even though I don’t HAVE to buy my licenses because I hold a P2 card, I still do, just to contribute to the cause.
It will be interesting to see how this bill progresses or if it the fiscal issues associated with it cause it to die on the vine.
What say you Heartland friends and readers? Is a show of support for our law enforcement officers worth the loss to the DNR coffers?