U.S. House bill seeks more fish funding

Associate Editor

Washington, D.C. The U.S. House has joined the Senate with a
stand-alone bill that would bring more money to states for
sportfish restoration and boating safety projects.

For Minnesota, full funding of the Aquatic Resources Trust Fund
from a tax on motorboat and small engine gasoline could bring the
state an additional $4 million annually for projects ranging from
fisheries research to fish stocking to public access acquisition.
Currently the state gets about $10 million.

Federal legislation from the 1950s aimed at fishing and boating
was amended in 1984 to derive money from a tax on gasoline used for
outboards and small engines. Currently, the fund that distributes
the proceeds to states receives 13.5 cents of the 18.3 cents per
gallon in tax revenue. The remainder goes to the federal general
fund for deficit reduction, according to Jeff Crane, policy
director for the Washington-based Congressional Sportsmen’s
Foundation.

“It’s a user excise tax; why shouldn’t the user get the benefit
of it?” he said.

The tax currently contributes about $450 million that enters the
ARTF, Crane said, which constitutes the lion’s share of what enters
the fund. By adding the 4.8 cents that go to the general fund, an
additional $110 million could be sent to states for fishing and
boating projects, he said.

According to Jerry Johnson, federal assistance coordinator with
the Minnesota DNR, states’ portions of ARTF receipts are based on a
formula that takes into consideration the number of fishing
licenses sold, along with states’ geographic area.

In the past few years, slightly more has been put into the
account; CSF believes the account should receive the entire tax
revenue.

“We’ve never received the full amount; it’s always been
negotiated back down,” Crane said. “We’re trying to creep in and
get a little more, and a little more.”

Full funding of the ARTF from the excise tax was introduced as
part of federal highway bills in 2003. This year, there are
stand-alone bills for the legislation in both the U.S. House and
Senate. The language also is in a House transportation bill; the
Senate has yet to introduce its transportation bill.

In the Senate, the bill (S 422) is sponsored by Trent Lott,
R-Mississippi and co-sponsored by Wisconsin Sen. Herb Kohl, a
Democrat.

The recently introduced House version (HR 1063) is sponsored by
Clay Shaw, a Florida Republican.

Crane said the amount of gas attributed to those uses is an
estimate based on a formula.

He expects the legislation which has bipartisan support could be
successful, either within a highway bill or as a stand-alone
version should the transportation bill bog down as it did last
year. Last September, Congress voted for an extension giving
members until May 2005 to complete highway bills.

“I’m feeling optimistic the powers that be are lined up behind
this,” Crane said.

The original Dingell-Johnson Sport Fish Restoration Act of 1950
created an excise tax on sport-fishing equipment. The 1984
amendment, offered by Sens. Malcolm Wallop and John Breaux, created
the tax on gasoline used by motorboats and small engines.

In most cases, states are reimbursed for a portion of
already-financed projects that qualify for funding from the
ARTF.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *