October 18, 2019

New Hampshire Fish And Game Asks For Percent Of Lodging/Meals Tax

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I’ve reported before that New Hampshire can’t continue to fund its Fish and Game Department the way it is currently structured. The debate now is what to do about it.

On Wednesday, people gathered at a meeting of the state House Ways and Means Committee, to voice opinions on how to fix the broken department. The NHFG is seeking 4% of the state’s collection of lodging and meals tax saying that a portion of those taxes are a direct result of efforts and programs administered by the department.

The problem with this request is that removing the 4% allotment, totaling approximately $4 million, would remove the same amount from the state’s general fund. That would mean either raising taxes to cover the difference or making cuts to other programs.

New Hampshire Public Radio covered the event and what came as no surprise to me was a comment made about why the NHFG is short on funds.

For years, the agency has been able to function smoothly with federal funds and fees that come mostly from hunting and fishing licenses.

But sales of those licenses have been declining in the last decade, leaving Fish & Game with fewer dollars for wildlife and fish stock management.

What’s wrong with this statement is the context in which it is being used. It leads readers and listeners to believe that hunting, fishing and trapping are so much on the decline that the NHFG is now $4 million dollars short on funding. I won’t disagree that license sales may be on the decline but not to the tune of $4 million. According to information provided on the NHFG website, revenue from license sales totals $9,796,159 for 2006. To suggest that a $4 million shortfall in revenue is the result of reduced license sales is saying that the number of hunters, trappers and fishermen has been cut nearly in half.

What creates the shortfall is the demand put on the NHFG to perform more duties and create recreational opportunities for those not paying to play. For too long the license buyers have been funding play time for those not willing to pay. That has to stop.

Rep. Peyton Hinkle of Merrimack I believe is on the right track.

maybe the department needs to be reorganized. separate out the hunting and the fishing functions from the other wildlife and conservation functions and search and rescue and that kind of thing. and then have the license fees fund the fish and game part of it. and then have the general fund money fund the other part of it.

Money collected from the sale of licenses for hunting, fishing and trapping should be used to manage and provide opportunities for these groups. Those fees should not be paying for the opportunity for wildlife viewing, hiking trails, parking lots, search and rescue and all other costs associated with non-game functions. Out of a total 2006 budget of the NHFG of $23 million, just over $2 million goes into wildlife management. Where is fish and game in that equation?

It is indefinitely time for New Hampshire to reorganize and get those paying for what they use and get it off the backs of the license buyers. Restructuring is in order. They need to take search and rescue out of the budget of NHFG along with snowmobile and ATV costs for administering. In short, fish and game should be just the way it used to be, fish and game.

Tom Remington

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