Back when she was Lt. Gov. Blanco, our current governor campaigned for the top job in the state on a platform that included her strong support for Louisiana’s outdoor sports. She was a lifelong hunter and angler, she said, and she would use her power as governor to enrich the outdoor traditions that are so entrenched in our culture.
Nice sentiments, but apparently the fierce winds of Hurricanes Katrina and Rita blew those thoughts right out of her head.
Like many similar agencies across the country, the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries is in a rather precarious financial position. LDWF has traditionally received a grand total of zero recurring dollars from the state’s general fund, and has instead relied on license sales and other lesser revenue streams to meet its budgetary needs every year.
That’s all fine and dandy, except for the fact that license sales are on a steady decline here in Louisiana, just as they are across most of the country. For instance, in the decade between 1995 and 2004, fishing license sales here fell from 601,912 to 508,187.
Numerous legislators have said over the years that the user group — namely, us — should pay the bills for LDWF, and that it shouldn’t be the obligation of the average citizen. But all the while, those same legislators have consistently voted to add more and more responsibilities to the department that benefit the general population.
For instance, if the LDWF is charged with helping with brown-pelican studies and projects, should it be the sole responsibility of hunters and anglers to pay the bill?
Not unless we’re going to add a brown pelican hunt somewhere between the teal and woodcock seasons.
But the Legislature this year, apparently, saw the light. The House voted without opposition to approve a measure that would give the department 1/20th of 1 percent of the money the state generates through sales-tax collection. Sounds like a small amount, but it actually totaled $43 million. Best of all, this money would be recurring, and the department wouldn’t have to go to the Legislature every year with its hat in its hand.
While the bill was in the Senate, however, Blanco let it be known she wasn’t in favor of it, so the bill was amended to remove the sales-tax provision, and award the department instead mineral revenues from Attakapas Wildlife Management Area. That’s a fluctuating sum that this year will total $18 million, but could fall off substantially from that number.
Which, of course, leaves the department without the rock-solid revenue source it so desperately needs.
Blanco also threw her support behind an inane measure sponsored by Rep. Jack Smith that will force boat buyers to title their boats, similar to the way cars are titled.
The price of gas is at record levels, meaning some anglers are able to fish less and others are leaving the sport entirely, which leads to a decrease in license sales, which leads to a decrease in youngsters learning how to fish, which leads to a further decrease in license sales, which leads to a decrease in revenue for the department.
So what do we do? Add another fee for anglers.
It’s not our outdoor traditions that are being enriched.
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