Just a few months from now, unless you have a lifetime hunting and fishing license, it’ll be time to renew your license to hunt and fish in the Sportsman’s Paradise.
The future cost of that license is certain to be decided in the Louisiana Legislature starting Monday. State legislators are being asked to consider a hike in the cost of recreational hunting and fishing licenses per a request from the state Department of Wildlife and Fisheries.
The hot topic surfaced during the Senate committee’s recent ongoing budget hearings concerning the spending plan proposed by Gov. John Bel Edwards for the financial fiscal year that begins July 1. The state agency wants to raise user fees to narrow a budget gap projected to get worse in the future, according to LDWF Secretary Jack Montoucet.
Montoucet told the Senate Finance Committee the proposal for license and fee increases would bring in $17 million a year for the LDWF. According to an Associated Press story April 1, details of the license and fee hikes have yet to be released to the public.
“We haven’t had an adjustment in what the licenses cost in 20 years. We are doing 50 more things that been put on our plate” during those two past decades, Montoucet said.
Two years ago, the department’s secretary proposed a smaller license restructuring cost to consolidate licenses, reduce the types of permits and increase some costs. But House membership rejected the proposal and the state agency’s financial woes have worsened since, according to the department.
“The Legislature said, ‘You’ve still got money, come back and see us.’ I’m back,” Montoucet said.
Will state representatives buy in this this time around? That’s up in the air.
There are several reasons for the decline in the department’s revenue, points out the AP. LDWF relies on the Conservation Fund as a primary source of financing but collections for the fund have dwindled each year since 2015-16.
LDWF CFO Bryan McClinton said revenue from oil and gas drilling in the state’s Wildlife Management Area is dropping and the state is getting fewer dollars annually from licensing fees as more and more people buy lifetime hunting and fishing licenses.
Edwards has proposed a $17 million infusion of state tax dollars as a short-term fix in the department and keep its budget mostly the same at $157 million in 2021-22.
However, Montoucet isn’t buying it, according to the wire story. He’d need to keep coming back for more state general fund cash every year without licenses and fee hikes that, he said, is unfair to the state’s residents, pointing our taxpayers who don’t use the state agency’s services shouldn’t be made to foot the bill for them.
“Our programs are user-pay. If you use the resources, you pay for the resources,” he said.
Senators are supporting the move to raise fees on those who hunt and fish and use WMAs.
Sen. Mark Abraham, a Republican from Lake Charles, said “Everybody knows that in Louisiana we’re known for our wildlife and fisheries. We need to make sure that we keep it at a top priority. I’ll do everything I can to make sure you’re made whole.”
Sen. Mike Fesi, R-Houma, though, has suggested that in the future LDWF should consider incremental fee hikes every year rather than a large raise after 20 years.
Sen. Gerald Boudreaux, D-Lafayette, called it like it is and said, succinctly,“The day of reckoning is here.”
When all is said and done, proposed hikes must get a two-thirds vote of the House and Senate to pass the legislative session that opens Monday.
DON SHOOPMAN is outdoors editor of The Daily Iberian.