Hunting, fishing licenses in play

Springfield – Quietly, plans to increase the price for an
Illinois hunting or fishing license are still on track, while the
future of a proposed state park admission fee is unclear.

Overshadowed by the state budget battle, which threatened to
shut down many state services and stall fee hikes written into the
budget, the permit fee increases were discussed and approved by a
House committee on July 14.

Under the plan, the cost of a fishing license is expected to go
from $12.50 to $14.50. A hunting license would rise from $7 to $12.
And a deer permit would go to $25 from the current $15.

As for the budget, DNR’s share of the state General Revenue Fund
for 2010 had been set at $62 million, up from $50 million last
year. The total DNR budget for 2010 was to be $276.4 million. The
funding increase gave reason for optimism as new agency director
Marc Miller took over. But when the state budget was not passed by
July 1, DNR was in danger of losing funding and nearly 70 staff
members to layoffs.

Meanwhile, the hunting and fishing license fee increases come at
a time of hard economic times for many of the state’s hunters and
anglers.

“We’re asking for these fee increases now, but we may not see
the full effect of this until the next fiscal year,” Miller said
this spring when word of the 2010 budget came down.

Other fee increases include a hike to the Illinois State
Migratory Waterfowl Stamp, from $10 to $15, and a $3 boat launch
fee for state ramps at Lake Shelbyville, Rend Lake and Carlyle
Lake.

DNR’s plan to charge a $5 admission fee at state parks appears
to be in limbo. The plan doesn’t need lawmakers to make a change in
law. Originally, the admission fee was to be enacted on July 1.

Miller told reporters on July 14 that the state park fee plan
“will be determined later.”

It’s estimated that, with all the new fees, an additional $3.5
million to $4 million could be realized by DNR.

The new state budget includes about $2.1 billion in spending
cuts statewide, with the possibility of an additional $1.1 billion
in cuts later in the year.

The budget outcome represents a major defeat for Gov. Pat Quinn,
who in March outlined an ambitious plan to raise taxes and close
the record-breaking $11.6 billion deficit he inherited upon taking
office.

At DNR, it wasn’t immediately clear how the new budget would
affect the agency’s plans to hire new biologists. It wasn’t clear
whether the 67 positions targeted for layoffs were still at risk.
And it wasn’t clear, either, where those positions would be
cut.

“We are still weighing all of our options and have not made any
specific decisions at this point,” DNR spokesman Chris McCloud told
reporters.

As for the state budget battle, Miller said, “In our current
budget crisis, I understand that tough choices need to be made. I
have full confidence in the governor and his intentions for this
agency.”

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