December 9, 2023

Analyzing The Candidates – Question Two

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Analyzing the Candidates Responses
Question 2

Now I would like to move on to question two. Yesterday, we examined the three gubernatorial hopefuls’ responses to question one. You can read that report and commentary here.

In brief, four candidates for Maine’s Governor where asked six identical questions concerning hunting, fishing and outdoor issues. Those questioned were Governor John Baldacci, incumbent democrat, independent candidate Barbara Merrill, republican Chandler Woodcock and green party candidate Patricia LaMarche. I have not heard back from LaMarche. I will post her responses if and when I receive them.

Below, as I did yesterday, I will post the original question exactly as it was posed to the candidates. I will follow that with the answers as I received them and then I will analyze and offer opinion and commentary.

Question Two:

Maine, not unlike many other states, struggles to fund the Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife. The bulk of funding comes from license fees from hunters, fishermen and trappers, etc. What are your plans to provide a budget to the MDIFW that meets the demands of sportsmen and the general public? Hunters, fishermen and trappers are interested in creative ways to enhance the budget and cut out nonsense programs (as they see them). Can you share with us any creative ideas you might have?

Governor Baldacci’s response:
Maine Governor John Baldacci

Answer 2. I am the first Governor to provide DIF&W with a significant general fund appropriation ($3.5 million) as called for in Maine statutes, and I provided it in the face of many competing demands for funding. By doing so, I disproved the assumption that the needs of the Department can’t compete for funding in the state budget. Nevertheless, I understand the concern of some sportsmen that future Governors may not have as strong a commitment to funding IF&W as I have shown. I will work with the sporting community to identify and put in place a reliable source of public funding for IF&W. In fact, my staff and the leadership at the Department have already begun a review of options that could provide a reliable and permanent funding source for the Department. Because funding options may be controversial, it may take some time to build support in the Legislature for such a funding source. I am committed to continuing to provide public dollars to supplement the Department’s revenues from licenses, permits and registrations until the new, reliable and permanent funding source is in place.
Dedicating a small percentage of sales tax revenues is one of the options my administration is reviewing. Until that review is complete, I am not prepared to say that this option is the best one for supplementing the Department’s current revenue base. If the review suggests this is the preferred option, I am prepared to support it.

Chandler Woodcock’s response:

2. I helped negotiate the 18% funding level which was stripped by the current administration and would seek to reinstate that level of funding. The department, along with others, needs to move away from gimmicks and toward the budgetary process.

Barbara Merrill’s response:

2. I am committed to making certain that the nonconsumptive users pay their fair share of the costs of the Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife. Honestly, I’m not sure I have yet seen the right solution and I don’t want to be one of these candidates who pretend they’ve got the perfect solution for every problem. I do believe if we listen to the Mainers who care most about any subject we can come up with a lot better way to do things. In that spirit, I would like to encourage bloggers to send their ideas to and promise that after hearing all your ideas, I will share what I think will work with readers of this blog.

My analysis:

From my perspective all three candidates are out in left field on this issue. The Governor boasts once again about his efforts in putting together a $3.5 million dollar budget from the general fund through taxation. Many taxpaying sportsmen are angered over the fact that the money and budgeted amount got ripped to shreds with nothing left when it was over.

Woodcock claims to have been a participant in getting the 18% funding for the Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife. He too states that this amount was stripped down by the Baldacci administration. He wants to reinstate the 18% through the budgeting process. Without cuts, this would mean higher taxes.

Merrill at least hints at making those who use pay. She refers to them as non-consumptive users. She also goes on to explain that she doesn’t pretend to have the answers and is soliciting help from our readers. I hope many of you are taking her up on her offer.

I may be in a minority in my stance on funding for MDIF&W. Let me first say that the expectations of the fish and game far exceed what its responsibilities should be. Too many programs have been dumped in the laps of IFW.

The MDIF&W has to fund search and rescue and snowmobile and ATV policing to name a few. These are programs that are being funded by hunters, fishermen, and trappers along with a handful of paying park users and snowmobile and ATV registration. These are motorized vehicles and should be policed by the highway patrol, local police and sheriff departments.

Sportsmen who are buying their licenses don’t like paying for this, as it has nothing to do with hunting, fishing and trapping. Most license holders that I know and have conferred with are not necessarily opposed to paying more in license fees but are opposed to having to do so to pay for some out-of-state hiker who got lost while hiking in the Maine woods.

I am against funding the fish and game department through budgetary means. It will open up a complete can of worms. Because funding for the department will come from general taxation, there will be more and more demand by non-hunters, etc. to regulate the department.

We need to strip the department of all it’s unnecessary jobs and funnel them back to other departments like police and sheriff departments and local EMS and rescue operations.

Once the department is pared back so that officials can focus on just hunting, fishing and trapping, a true sense of how much money would be needed could be better achieved. I believe then and only then would license buyers be willing to spend the appropriate amount of money for a license.

Another way of cutting the budget of useless and unnecessary spending is to get rid of fish stocking. It will hurt for awhile until our natural fish are given a chance to replenish themselves through programs like catch and release. The millions and millions of dollars being spent on stocking and fish hatcheries is draining the budget and not getting the return on investment back from fishermen (this issue is covered in an upcoming question later on).

These are only some of my ideas on changes that I see needing to happen. We cannot simply keep increasing taxes and increasing license fees without a better, more directed plan.

The state of Maine is required to provide for hunting and fishing activities to the residents. Let the users of those provisions pay their fair share. Don’t ask them to pay for something that has nothing to do with hunting or fishing. The license buyers are the ones who should have a say in what the fish and game department does with their fees not some politician in Augusta who neither hunts nor fishes.

I am a big proponent of less government and the more money that gets dumped into the fish and game budget from taxation means a bigger bureaucratic nightmare for the sportsmen.

The short of it is we need to trim the Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife down to only fisheries and wildlife issues. Let the other users pay for what they do that costs all taxpayers money. Leave non-hunters and non-fishermen and trappers out of the equation. It won’t work.

This process can be done over time. Pulling the rug out from under everything would be disastrous. If a plan were put together to accomplish this over time, all of Maine would benefit.

Once again I am completely disappointed in the answers given to our readers. Both Baldacci and Woodcock want to raise taxes to fund the department. Maine can’t keep doing this. It is already the most taxed state in the Union and this happened on Baldacci’s watch.

Baldacci suggests looking at other ways of developing funding. Although some of his inclinations appear to be secretive, the only one he is willing to divulge a little on is generating revenue through sales tax. Tax, tax, tax, tax, that’s what this Governor seems to know how to do. Let’s cut, cut, and cut.

I can only hope that if Merrill were to win this race, she would actually find a way to make those that play pay and take the burden fairly off the hunters, fishermen and trappers.

In all fairness, I cannot give an edge to any of the candidates on this question. As I said, I am dead set against public tax dollar funding of the department. I don’t feel as though either Woodcock or Merrill have enough knowledge or information available to them to make a good choice. I had hoped candidates would delve into the real issues and problems associated with department budgetary shortfalls.

This question is a somber draw!

Comments are open.

Tom Remington