Lifetime licenses? Devil is in the detail.
Legislation has been introduced in Lansing to create a package of lifetime hunting and fishing licenses. On the surface, it sounds like a good idea that would save sportsmen and women a few bucks. But the devil is in the detail.
The legislation, HB 5334 sponsored by Rep. Richard LeBlanc (D-Westland), calls for establishing lifetime licenses for fishing (restricted and all species), small game, gun deer, bow deer, bear and waterfowl.
The state sold 3,135 lifetime licenses in 1989-’90, the last time they were offered. Money from the sale of those licenses was deposited into a fund and each year the state takes out an appropriate amount to cover the cost of the annual licenses. They do this because for every hunting and fishing license the state sells, it received $4 on the dollar from the federal government, which the feds collects through excise taxes on hunting and fishing gear. That means a $15 license pulls in $60 from the feds.
The problem is, that in less than 20 years, the lifetime license would be paid off and the hunter/angler would essentially be hunting/fishing for free. That’s great for the hunter/fisherman, but bad for conservation. Once the fund is exhausted, the DNR would no longer receive any federal funding for the licenses that hunter would otherwise be purchasing.
At the proposed rate of $285 for a gun deer license, for example, if licenses remain at $15 per year, someone who purchased a lifetime license in 2012 would essentially pay it off in 19 years ($15×19 years=$285). If the DNR continued its practice of putting the money in a fund and only taking $15 per year for each lifetime license sold, the fund would be exhausted in 2031 and the DNR would never collect another dime from those active hunters/anglers or of the excise taxes it otherwise would be entitled to. That’s a double-whammy.
Since 1989, the last time lifetime licenses were sold, the cost of an annual hunting license has gone up a measly $2.15 from $12.85 to $15. That’s a 14-percent increase in 23 years. That doesn’t even keep up with the cost of inflation. Heck, gas, at about $1.12 a gallon in 1989, has increased 325 percent in that same time span to roughly $3.65 a gallon (or more).
With DNR funding in a tailspin, it seems much more prudent for our legislators to be looking for ways to increase DNR revenue and secure long-term funding for conservation rather than looking for ways to reduce it.
Rep LeBlanc told MON in a story that ran on May 11, that he doesn’t think his legislation would have a negative impact on DNR funding because only a “select group of individuals,” would choose to buy such a license. If that’s the case, and this legislation would only impact a “select group of individuals,” then why was it even introduced? Seems like there are much more pressing issues the state legislature could be debating than a bill that would appease Rep. LeBlanc and a select group of his constituents.