125th Fish & Boat Commission meets, fishermen may see increases

The Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission is looking at some major cuts to stay afloat.  

Today was the 125th meeting of the Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission, that meeting taking place in Erie.  Commissioners from across the state debated what to do about the commission's budget deficit.  They say without help from the state, hatcheries could close and layoffs are inevitable.

The PA Fish and Boat Commission finds itself facing the same troubles as many other organizations today, operating costs exceeding revenue.  One possible way to increase revenue is by increasing license fees, but it can't be done without approval from the state.  William Brock, Commissioner of District 3, tells us, "it would help us tremendously if they could pass that bill and give us some flexibility in increasing rates on a regular basis to help close that gap". 

The commissioners voted Monday, giving power to the Executive Director, John Arway, to cut $2 million from its 2018-2019 fiscal year budget, including making cuts to all facilities and personnel.  Arway says, "we want to raise enough money to cover those expenses by increasing the license fee by 6 bucks for the average angler and then a 3% incremental increase for 5 years after that to keep us up so we can continue to pay the bills".

The current fee for a Pennsylvania resident is $21.  If the planned rate increase is approved, it would raise the total cost by more than $10 by the year 2023.
    
Edward Mascharka, Commissioner of District 1 tells us, "we want to make sure that the fisherman and the legislature know that, that cut is the last ditch effort and we really need those licensing fees to prevent us from making further cuts".

The commission has been asking legislatures to increase license fees for the past four years, the Executive Director saying just a small increase could make a big difference in the budget.  Arway says, "I am hopeful that this message that they heard here today is an alarm for the house to pass the bill then we don't have to close hatcheries, we don't have to cut back fish production, we can focus on getting more people to become fisherman rather than worry about where the money is going to come from".

The fee for a Pennsylvania fishing license has not increased since 2005.


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